Articles and Reviews

Artshift Review Comment

Stephen French, Artist, SJSU Professor of Art,
Associate Dean of Humanities
Winter 2012

Powers' most recent paintings move away from the familiar painterly surfaces and varied textures of the artist's earlier work but in doing so they greatly expand on the essential and most personal qualities of her work.

These include the rich play of light, shadow and luminosity found in Powers' early work which is continued and greatly intensified in the new Vermeer pieces. These new pieces also amplify the meditative qualities of stillness and repose that reside at the heart of her most powerful work. In addition the notion of the "precious object" often highlighted in previous work is reinvented ~ now found in Vermeer's paintings. A partial string of pearls, a spool of thread, an earring are celebrated and given unexpected personal focus.

It is important to note that these "Vermeer paintings" are not attempts to simply replicate the originals. Powers has changed the size, the scale, the proportions of the paintings and the details of paintings to her own ends. Like composers from Mozart to Stravinsky, artists and poets have borrowed predecessors' themes and structures to enhance, inform and enlarge their own work. The best of cases, as here, honor the forerunner and enrich the borrower's art. And as an artist friend said to me, when you work with Vermeer you can really show what a kick as painter you are!
Curator's Comments
from "Creative in Common" Exhibit

Lindsay Kourvaris, Senior Curator
De Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University
September 2014

To visit the home and studio of San Jose-based artist Lynn Powers is to embark on a journey of discovery. Her paintings and mixed media works invite exploration and contemplation.

In her artist statement Powers write, "For most of my life I have been sustained by images, memories, and stories that contain a sense of mystery, that pose a question, or those that require an investigation of some sort." It is befitting then, that Powers' work reflects her predilection towards discovery. Her visually poetic works engage a language of symbols that is both personal and universal. Her pieces do not rely on figurative or narrative content, but rather combine elements that point toward a larger meaning ~the existence of something beyond corporeal life, something mystic, perhaps transcendent.

Drawing inspiration from sources such as Buddhist cosmology, the practice of Yoga, the mysticism of Lao Tzu, alchemical lore, and Carl Jung's writings on the universal unconscious, Powers' work looks beyond the here and now. "It is my practice", she says, "to bear witness to the inner life of intuition and dreams."

Each completed piece is imbued with elements of the artist's story ~ personal reflections on her inner journey ~ yet every work is left open to interpretation, inviting new meaning from the viewer. Well-placed titles hint at Powers' inspiration, but never provide definitive answers. Her work intentionally leaves questions unanswered, sentences unfinished. To experience the art of Lynn Powers is to embark on a satisfying and poetic quest without a final destination.
On the Works of Lynn Powers

Richard G. Tansey ~ Art Historian
Author of “Art Through the Ages”
February 1997


In the 20th century we have witnessed a fundamental change from an art of representation to an art of expression, from descriptions of the world of material and visual fact to manifestations of the inner world of spiritual/psychical experience. This is the personal world disclosed by meditation and contemplation, by vision and dream, in short, by philosophy and practice of mysticism.

The mystical view and method, as distinct from the scientific and pragmatic (though they sometimes interface) direct that most enduring of modern and “post-modern” styles we call expressionism. Like the mystic, the expressionist artist attempts to penetrate to a deeper reality that that given in commonplace experience, and to express in art his or her unique engagement with it.

To that end expressionist artists typically use highly personal forms and techniques, signs, symbols, shapes, colors and materials in compositions which may or may not be accompanied by allusive captions. The artist invites the viewer to share in the experience of the inspiration, creation and completion of the work without anxiety about its literal explanation. Thus, despite its apparent mystery, the work can effect a mutuality of artist and viewer in the continuing exploration and enjoyment of it. What is communicated escapes any final literal definition because there are layers of content with differing relationships and meanings for each viewer.

A whole world of thought and art is at the expressionist’s disposal. Powers has been influenced by Buddhist cosmology, the practice of Yoga, and the nature of mysticism of Lao Tzu. From the west she has learned from alchemical lore, from the 17th c. mystic Jacob Boehme, and from Carl Jung’s doctrine of the universal unconscious. For Powers the cosmos is a living unity, its essence the world soul, which is not transcendent but immersed in all phenomena, animate or inanimate. Everything is interrelated in unending patterns of affinities, resemblances, similitudes and metaphors. These reveal themselves in meditation, in dreams, and in the twilight zone between sleeping and waking. The images they evoked are timeless and universal, and shine forth from the humblest objects; Boehme, for example, beheld the mystery of the Trinity and of Being in the glow of the sun on the rim of a pewter plate; for Wordsworth “the meanest flower that blows can give/thoughts that do often lies too deep for tears.”

Content with the world soul (anima mundi) is a dialogue with the receptive soul of the artist. The images that record that contact speak to the viewer of the artist’s vision ~ in effect an icon, a vehicle of mystery. (Says Powers: “I sense my works are like altarpieces because they are an invitation to the viewer to contemplate more than the physical world.”)

Not only the images, but the materials out of which they are fashioned have a resonant eloquence in conveying the significance of the icon to the viewer. Powers is fascinated by the old alchemists’ symbolism of metals, and their transmutations. A favorite motif is the funnel, a symbol of distillation, a step in the process of transmutations. Applied gold and silver leaf have their own symbolism and reinforcement of the icons’ message. This symbolism guides the viewer as she or he encounters such compositions as Existence Opens, or Incubating.., or is introduced into the Heart of the Matter, the creative crucible of the alchemist. Read another way, it is the world matrix, or still another, the great stupa at Sanchi in India, memorial to the Buddha and diagram of the cosmos, in which all things coexist in perpetual harmony. The concord of universal Being, no matter how we experience it in our personal conscious or unconscious awareness, is the subject of Lynn Powers art, and the indispensable guide to our discernment of it in a meeting of insights.
Sweet Obsession A Twenty Year Survey An Exhibition Catalog

Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator
Triton Museum of Art 2011


Visual poetry, like its literary counterpart, is an expression not of the pedestrian and terrestrial, but of the sublime. One cannot reach transcendence, however one wishes to define that term (though in my contemplation of it I refer to the musing realm of the non-corporeal), without the will to experience an inner elsewhere. But the will itself is not enough to deliver us through that malleable passage from the mundane to the sublime. We need a guide. Like Dante who, midway through his life turned aside from the path on which he was set to venture downward and beyond the abyss of the river Acheron, we need our Virgil. How fitting that the poet’s guide was a poet guide. Poetry, literary and visual is a language the needs to be penetrated. It is metaphorical and thus is able to speak to that part of us that is in tune with the transcendent that is beyond all words and forms.
Artists have always been the seers of the transcendent, though few artists actually live up to that calling. Lynn Powers is one of those rare guides. Lynn’s paintings, while lovely on the surface, cannot be limited to such prosaic narration. We see in her works familiar images – a lotus, circles, hints of landscape, and mystical interiors – but these are not to be read as an encyclopedia of the artist’s personal icons. They are, rather, part of a metaphorical whole that connote the artist’s forays into our greater nature, and she has fixed her metaphors to canvas and board for those of us willing to be guided into that great unknown. Lynn Powers is our Virgil, if we would but turn aside and wander into her realm.
It was a great honor to invite Lynn to exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art. As curators, I and my colleagues endeavor to showcase artists of merit and value, with the hope that our audience will find them interesting and beneficial. In the art of Lynn Powers we got more than that. Visitors were taken on a lyrical journey, some quite by surprise. It is a journey I got to know well as I daily took the time to visit and absorb her work.
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