Painting Sticks with Light: Angelita Surmon

By Maria Simon

What really knocks me out about Angelita Surmon’s work is her uncanny ability to go directly into the chaos of lines and layers of tangled branch and twig; into the complexity of shadow and reflection; and to arrive at peace and quiet. Her current paintings on canvas and fused glass are derived from her frequent walks through the local and regional forests and wetlands close to home. Movement in branches, the play of light, and the contrast of textures are what most capture her attention as she revisits each place over the change of seasons. She takes refuge in these frequent meditations on foot, which provide respite from the stresses of daily life in the city; and she invites us to share the peace.

Angelita Surmon Year's End At Oaks Bottom
Angelita Surmon Year's End At Oaks Bottom

Her work reflects a willingness to investigate her surroundings, and communicates this experience of deep seeing. Her use of color is both rich and subtle, by turns… undemanding. Viewed at close range, the images are abstract and impressionistic. Step back and the images are ordered and classically representational. She paints in a manner that is both fluid and meticulous. The work is careful, but not cerebral.

Surmon’s new work in fused glass is reminiscent of her earlier lithographs. It retains the delicacy and fluidity of her sketches, but now it is infused with light. In fact, she refers to the technique as “painting with light”. The work has this light, intuitive feel to it…just enough information to create the illusion of depth.

Angelita Surmon Winter Light 1 2011 10 by 10 inches kiln formed glass
Angelita Surmon Winter Light 1 2011 10 by 10 inches kiln formed glass

Angelita is intrepid in her willingness to re-invent herself artistically, over time. I’ve watched her work evolve over the past 25 years, as it has passed from watercolor landscapes; to pattern and decoration on her own handmade paper, influenced by the a kimonos she saw in Japan; then a preoccupation with antiquities in the form of fabric scraps and mummy wraps, and the way things look after aging. Her work then turned toward illusive space, and became looser and more influenced by Abstract Expressionism. When the work became too predictable she shifted again, this time to the innocence of children’s drawings, and the shadow puppets she found while traveling in Bali. Later, a shift toward more classical representations of the human figure, and the classical roles that having a child presents. This work evolved into a more psychological study of figure in landscape. And now the work has come full circle, with a return to landscape.

Angelita Surmon Estuary Tangle 2011  36 by 48  inches acrylc on canvas
Angelita Surmon Estuary Tangle 2011 36 by 48 inches acrylc on canvas

To learn more about Angelita Surmon, visit her website at:

And please visit her in her studio during this weekend’s Portland Open Studios tour,

# 83 on the tour map.