“Having traveled frequently I-57 from Chicago to Champaign, Illinois, I always found the flat Illinois landscape interesting. Flat terrain that stretches for miles, crops in various stages of development, farm buildings, towns, cloud formations. Most impressive has been the ever-changing sky. From morning to evening, regardless of the season, the changing patterns and colors over the flat earth have commanded my attention.

“Although I am known primarily as a portrait painter, I love painting landscapes. They offer a connectedness to another, freer method of working with space, color, and design. Bringing the outside indoors, landscapes invite us to appreciate that which we sometimes take for granted. To magnify the effect, I have tried to capture the colors and moods of the vast Illinois landscape on a very small surface—almost like a tiny window that blocks out all but a peaceful, lovely landscape—forcing the viewer to look closely at a subject often considered unremarkable, to enjoy the process and art of seeing what appears in each scene.

“These 4.5″ x 6.5″ works, done in oil, are painted on gessoed museum mount board.”

In 2000, Cole extended this series by painting French landscapes in a similar manner. These additional works, based on her travels between Paris and the Loire Valley, reveal similarities and differences between the landscapes she found in French countryside and in her travels through Central Illinois.

Representative pieces from this series are below. To view an excerpt of an interview in which Cole discusses the “I-57” series, click here.