Photorealist painter Mike Hewett and abstract painter Meredith Pardue began a collaborative body of work in 2017 that combines their vastly different approaches to painting on a shared canvas. While there are variations in the creative process of each painting, generally the artists work separately, but in tandem. Pardue and Hewett begin each piece by designing the compositions together. Pardue then creates the abstract grounds with various water based media, often incorporating graphic elements such as stencils and cut outs, and establishing distinct divisions of space through collaged handmade papers and masked sections of paint. Once the grounds are complete, Hewett begins painting the realistic, but expressive imagery of the compositions using the historical medium of oil paint in the trees in isolation series.
Pardue Hewett debuted their collaboration with a body of work depicting trees in isolation against an abstract ground. Some of the grounds are abstract atmospheres, and others are flat graphic spaces that contrast starkly with the three-dimensionality of the trees. Each tree is presented as an individual, which is of course quite different than how they generally exist in nature. This singular presentation in an altered and unexpected environment echoes a range of historical portraiture, and the vertical nature of the tree itself furthers this suggestion. The work has a sensibility that is often magical or haunting, mirroring that of nature in its most sublime or fleeting presentations, and the notion of personification is the root of this sensibility.
Pardue Hewett has created a second body of work comprised of abstracted butterflies in flight. The butterfly is of course the epitome of metamorphosis, rebirth, and transformation, and this idea is elevated by the compositions. The suggested movement of the groups of butterflies suggests a precious, but fleeting moment in time like a snapshot of a moment, mirroring the brief, but magical life of the butterfly itself.