“Lisa Grossman: Rivering,” Haw Contemporary

FLUX.FLOW, 2022, oil on canvas, 84” x 72” (courtesy of Haw Contemporary)

Lisa Grossman’s aptly titled “Rivering” assembles entrancing oil and acrylic paintings in her sixth exhibition at Haw Contemporary. The title refers to her two decades of adventures, explorations by kayak, on foot, by plane and drone, and study of the Kaw River’s 173-mile span. Conversations with scientists, recreational river paddlers, and others connected with the river shaped her perspective. Grossman’s involvement with nonprofit Friends of the Kaw, and research through historic maps and modern mapping technologies also influenced these works.

“Rivering” poetically describes the waterway’s essence, where the Kaw River “makes its winding way in the act of rivering through vast stretches of time in all the expressions and manifestations of its unique sandy, grassland river-self.”

A river’s purpose is to flow. Rivers assert presence over time, a byproduct of motion, resistance, and erosion. Similarly, Grossman sweeps her brush across the canvas with intent. She uses bold contrast and ethereal shading to manifest a vision, channeling what to reveal and what remains obscured.

Grossman’s paintings portray views of the river from above. Warm light reflects across water in “Glow” and casts a silver-white sheen in “Waiting.” Sandbars, the riverbank, and flood plains brood in murky shadows. “Grassland River” depicts the river’s seemingly glassy stillness under the canopy of a gauzy horizon at dusk.

Grassland River, 2021, oil on canvas, 24” x 48” (courtesy of Haw Contemporary)

The grand scale of “Water+Sand+Time” and gleaming “Flux Flow” displays the Kaw River’s massive scope and kinetic nature across the riverbed and landscape. These works were inspired by river segments with an “untamed character — complicated and intricate arrangements of water-carved sand,” noted Grossman.

Intrinsically, a river’s existence indicates what once was and what is. Grossman acknowledges that the past is present in her subject matter.

Grossman also incorporated digital and laser-cutting technology as a basis for painting and creating printmaking blocks. Her use of lasers to carve and imprint material mirrors the creative and destructive power of water to alter the ancient, slowly-evolving Kansas River Valley.

“Glaciers in Kansas – Kaw Lake” and “Meander Scars” are relief roll woodcuts on rice paper mounted on panels. Grossman chose this approach to reveal where the river once flowed and left its imprint. Imagery on floodplain scrolls are “scars left behind from old river channels — the ancestral Kaw Lake, and the evidence of ancient life along the Kaw.”

Floodplain Scrolls, 2023, acrylic on laser-cut panel, installation view (courtesy of Haw Contemporary)

“Rivering” represents Grossman’s selective “evidence of the river’s longer story that is written in the language of fluvial processes across the floodplains, on the sandbars, and in the geological record.”

Her work evokes a river’s power to follow the path of least resistance, occupy, and transform beyond boundaries. A river expresses itself across millennia; the scarred floodplain subject to its mercurial whim.

Grossman’s collection floods internal territory, encouraging the imagination to indulge in its own rivering, to move and be moved.

“Lisa Grossman, ‘Rivering,’” continues through March 8 at Haw Contemporary, 1600 Liberty St. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday and noon to 5 p.m., Saturday. For more information, hawcontemporary.com or 816.842.5877.

Pete Dulin

Pete Dulin is the author of “Expedition of Thirst: Exploring Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries Across the Heart of Kansas and Missouri,” “Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland,” and two other books. His reporting has appeared in “AFAR Magazine,” “Feast,” “Kansas City Magazine,” KCUR, Zócalo Public Square, “The Kansas City Star,” “The Boston Globe,” and other publications.

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