Neltje’s paintings are intense, complex, and larger than life. In her late 30s, Neltje began her excursion into the discipline of Sumi-e painting. That practice became the core of her later work. She works in series. Neltje often starts a painting with a gesture of bold color and works in a counterclockwise pattern. Her dynamic process of painting changes between quick, expressive physical movements and intense deliberation. Colors sing like musical notes. Major chords of primary colors contrast with minor grays. The marks are rhythmic, pulsing. Yellows blare like trumpets, structured by bass notes of blue and black.
This exhibition features mainly paintings completed in 2017 and 2018. Dialogue of My Mind is Neltje’s first figurative series, which she painted following the 2016 elections. The first painting, Threatened, surprised her with its specificity. The Capitol Building is depicted on the left; faces and hands, including a man with yellow hair, are scattered across a field of blue. Her series of expressive faces imagines people affected by the rapidly changing political landscape: shocked, fragmented, and disconnected.
Neltje finds a source of energy as well as solace in nature’s beauty. Tell Me, Why Flowers? is a series of lyrical abstractions linked like a musical “theme and variations.” Inspired by the end-of-season explosion of color in her late-summer gardens, Tell Me, Why Flowers? evokes the spectacular, but fleeting, joys of life. Unlike traditional still-life flower paintings, these works do not represent physical likenesses nor present moral lessons. Neltje’s colors and patterns reflect the life and abundance she feels in the presence of nature.
The exhibition features a painting of the same title, which at 10′ x 30′ fills a gallery wall. This and four other monumental paintings representing the four seasons offer an experience of sublime beauty that envelops, overwhelms, and, ultimately cradles the viewer.
Neltje has had numerous group and solo exhibitions, including a major solo exhibition at the University of Wyoming in 2013. In 2005 she received the Wyoming Governor’s Art Award.