Rhythms fill Fredericka Foster’s paintings of water. Or that is what I am tempted to say after a glance around a roomful of her paintings. Then, when I focus on a single canvas and look for its defining pattern, I see none—no equivalent to the strict regularities of a Minimalist grid or an Op Art design. In short, no rigidity. These are pictures of flow, of current and cross-current. Their rhythms are liquid, which is to say: the moment a rhythm begins, it reaches beyond itself. To see Foster’s art in full is to see just how far her images reach beyond the immediacies of their subject matter. Readily labeled a realist, a recorder of visible facts, she turns out to be a visionary.
Baywater, the title of several recent works, refers to Elliott Bay, in Seattle, the city where Foster was born. When she was still young, she moved with her family to Toledo, Ohio. Near her home was the Toledo Museum of Art, where she had her first immersion in painting. After a few years, the family returned to Seattle and she got to know the collection of the city’s art museum, which includes canvases by such West Coast modernists as Mark Tobey and Morris Graves. Though Foster praises them now as “mystic painters,” she did not at first respond to their quasi-abstract intimations of Northwestern skies and the Pacific Ocean. She was, however, keenly alive to her surroundings, an environment she describes as “an iridescent world of humidity, rain, lakes . . .”