Although Linda Bankerd majored in art in college and studied art as a graduate student, she first seriously committed herself to painting in the mid-1980s after the demands of raising her children diminished. At that same time, Bankerd and her husband started what was to become a serious bicycling practice, joining local clubs and racking up thousands of miles every year. Bankerd has been producing art and cycling ever since.
The talented acrylic painter has not always been in love with the painting of landscapes. “For a long time I was unable to paint landscapes without resorting to something extremely banal,” she says. “Eventually I found my way into them.”
The paintings in Luscious Landscapes, Bankerd’s September 2019 show at Touchstone Gallery, are anything but banal. These works have a direct connection with Bankerd’s cycling, an activity that takes the artist into many varied landscapes on the intimate level possible from a bicycle seat. Bankerd mostly bikes within 100 miles of the Washington area, usually on lightly traveled roads in or near the greater metropolitan area. But she has biked elsewhere, too, and is currently planning a three-day ride from Richmond, Virginia to Williamsburg. Bankerd feels that a week-long biking journey is ideal, and she frequently makes more lengthy trips in Europe, Mexico or more distant areas of the US.
Passionate Cycling Yields Exciting Paintings
Bankerd’s cycling passion has found its way into the exciting paintings of Luscious Landscapes. These abstract landscapes are not a direct depiction of specific places, and Bankerd never sketches on her cycling trips. While she sometimes takes photographs, she does not spend much time on this. “I often see great photo ops, but the problem is that if I stop, everyone else will get ahead, plus it is an unwelcome interruption.” Thus, Bankerd’s paintings spring largely from imagination or from her memories of the landscapes she has biked. She may start from a quickly snapped photo of her own or from a found photograph reminiscent of a landscape she remembers, but that is just the launching point. “As the painting evolves the composition might well change. The colors certainly do, and at some point it hopefully takes on a life of its own.” Some of Bankerd’s paintings fall into place quickly. “Other times there are many, many versions before the finished painting emerges.” Bankerd says that her paintings are intuitive to a great degree up until a finishing stage, when color, composition, and mood may need to be considered—“but not always!”
Viewing this exhibition, it is evident that Bankerd engages energetically with her cycling and the landscapes through which she travels. These paintings are filled with lively color, line, shapes and muscular brushwork suggestive of a vigorous outing on two wheels, reeling quickly through interesting places, felt as much as seen. In Abstract Landscape with Pink, fresh and child-like marks are drawn or scratched into a palette of gorgeous pastel pinks, strong greens and vibrant yellows. Colors wash across the canvas in a confident manner. There is a surprising purple sky hovering over pink fields and trees—all, somehow, fantastically believable. The painting exudes confident strength in equal measure with freewheeling play.
Where the Road Meets the Canvas
Intersection brings the viewer into a more gritty place, a common-place intersection on a seemingly deserted roadway. There are signs and lamp posts looming in a space that seems grounded in a place of peripheral vision. The colors here are more somber but still bold. The painting is focused on a dark green road just in front of an imagined cyclist’s wheel, leading to a red horizon in the distance, but the tangled intersection must be traversed to get there. Bankerd captures the mood of such lonely intersections perfectly.In Landscape with Five Boats, Bankerd puts the viewer on a bright orange road narrowing toward a jagged, brilliant yellow horizontal in the distance. In the middle ground are five dabs of blue and purple, boats that will be passed quickly by en route to the horizon. Proceeding down this orange road, you see dark crimson trees to the left, lighter red trees to the right and blue mountains in the distance ahead. These are intense colors, successfully balanced in a painting that feels like a ride down a country road bathed in sunshine.
As noted above, Bankerd is unwilling to interrupt her cycling experience to take photos or to sketch her landscapes, preferring to remain fully engaged in the act of cycling. It is clear that Bankerd is just as uncompromising in making her art. She delivers exuberant, direct and boldly expressive works that convey the artist’s complete immersion in the act of painting.