Swamp Water in the Veins

The unifying technique here is Tolbert's mastery of color. She works almost exclusively in an extraordinary range of earthy browns and greens, teasing out subtle variations of the same colors in panel after panel, so that the images almost seem to ricochet through the galleries. Even when she alludes to the waters of Spruce Creek, she uses not the bright hues of her Florida springs series, but an array of rich, dark blues and murky blacks.

This is the infinitely varied palette of nature itself, and it anchors Tolbert's abstractions in the muck and mire of her swampy source material. Just the right shade of green summons up leaves in one panel, while the perfect combination of browns evokes the trunk of a fallen tree or a patch of ground in another.

Here and there among the earth tones Tolbert applies a surprising touch of purple or pink, a splash of brilliant yellow or aqua that's a vivid reminder of nature's unpredictability. See, the artist seems to be saying, every time we think we've got a handle on the elusive mysteries of the natural world, something comes along to put us in our place. Tolbert's work, both in this installation and in the Florida springs paintings, embraces the enigma of nature and celebrates the sustenance it provides.

"Water's Edge: A Painting Installation by Margaret Ross Tolbert" is on display through April 30 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St., Hollywood, 954-921-3274.

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