Victoria Hoyt’s new exhibit of water-based paintings, Secret Codes and Body Feelings, is at RNG Gallery in Council Bluffs, through April 6.

Much of the work is fairly large, with several pieces unframed, allowing the viewer to experience the added gentle air movement of the light Japanese paper, which seems to offer a heightened aesthetic feeling to the work.  Because of the use of wet media on this thin paper, the opportunity for reworking parts is absent—only with collage additions can the artist add to the images. 

This approach seems to establish a sure but light touch to the work—deceptively simple and straight–forward. And their large individual presences are able to command our attention in this ample space.

Titles are a great boon to enrich the viewer’s experience of this exhibit.  Being content or text- laden, with words often borrowed from literature, they seem to flesh out Hoyt’s thinking.  These pithy titles manage to slow our movement through the exhibit, adding to the possibility of our understanding and appreciation of the work.

Victoria cites both the short stories of Amy Hempel and novels of Virginia Wolf as influences on her thinking in this exhibit. For example, the title of the work that accompanies this review is “A Lily Briscoe Stare”, a reference to a painter’s struggle described by Virginia Wolf in To the Lighthouse, which resonates with Hoyt: the great difficulty women have in being accepted and successful in the art world.

“Notes on Novels Before Forgettingis another title which might strike the viewer as quite powerful.  It comes from Hoyt’s own experience.

“This has everything to do with the relationship with my own mother and, by extension, grandmothers– and the things we pass to next generations of women,” she said. “The title comes from both my mom and my own fiction reading and common sentiment of knowing it was good, but not remembering exactly what happened.  It’s a thing we laugh at—both of us being feeling-driven and letting facts slip away.”

 Victoria says that she sees her art as expressing emotions that can’t be expressed in any other way.  She describes herself as wanting to be “anti-obsessed”, suggesting the feeling would be partly in response to her graduate degree experience of two years ago, “where every component of a work has to relate to the whole.”

She wants a clean break from that approach: “I want every work to contain emptiness, to give the viewer room. I want them to look…and connect. It’s not art therapy, either.”   Hoyt also wants us to reflect on her work, not to easily interpret. Its abstractness seems to lend itself to this goal.

Many people can become frustrated with abstraction’s relative lack of subject, and feel uncomfortable waiting long enough to allow the work to “say” something. We know the average gaze-length in a museum is something like three seconds before the viewer moves on.

Hoyt describes her working style as “thinking slowly, but working quickly,” once she has established her composition and general plan.  Her goal:  “To seek balance—I want to read, to be out in the world—I don’t want to live in the studio.”

 By the time the emerging artist was accepted at the Vermont Studio Center in November, 2013, she was newly pregnant.  Both she and her teacher-husband were looking at big changes in their lives.   Observing that the only artists at the Studio Center who had young children were the males, and the females tended to be older, she was slowly beginning to “grapple with how to balance motherhood and art. “  

Victoria seems to have too much to say not to be able to balance children and art.  And she’s young. There will be many years in the future when she can again focus on her work.

After growing up in Omaha, Hoyt graduated from Gustavus Adolphus, a liberal arts college in Minnesota, which allowed her to receive a broader cultural experience than art school would allow.  She then spent four years in Omaha, making and exhibiting art, maintaining an art studio at Hot Shops. 

To develop her art skills more deeply, she returned to finish graduate school at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She then completed residencies at the Urban Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Kimmel Harding in Nebraska City, and the Vermont Studio Center, where this series of work was initiated.  She currently teaches art at Metropolitan Community College in Fort Omaha.

Secret Codes and Body Feelings is at RNG Gallery, 157 West Broadway, Council Bluffs, from through April 6th.  For details call 712-256-4140 or go to

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