An obsession with ports and freight containers might not seem obvious or fertile subject matter for an artist, but Seattle-based Mary Iverson has explored just this world in various different ways over the past decade.
Her early paintings were fairly straightforward (if naïve) representations of the banks of containers stacked in situ at the Port of Seattle. As she became increasingly fascinated with the geometry of these infinite rectangular boxes, her work became more abstract and interesting, and the port itself no longer featured. Painting the planes and the vanishing points, and removing the containers from any real physical context, the paintings became like Cubist kaleidoscopes or three-dimensional linear colour studies. In fact, viewed out of context, the viewer would be hard pushed to ground some of the 2008 paintings in any kind of reality.
Lately though, Iverson has brought the ubiquitous containers back into a recognisable environment, this time drawing and painting them over idealised images of idyllic, untouched landscapes. These have a similar feel about them to some of Christo & Jeanne-Claude's preparatory drawings for their ambitious 'wraps', but ask some serious questions about the few untouched places left today. One of her most powerful recent paintings reworks Albert Bierstadt’s 1870 oil painting ‘Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast’ with the containers washed up on the pristine shores – an environmentally conscious update of an iconic American painting, raising questions about whether anywhere is safe from industrialisation and containerization.