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   Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!

   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
  creative flow
My last post was about my time in Greece in May and its effect on the work I was preparing for my exhibit, Overlays, at Addington Gallery in Chicago. That show is now up and can be viewed through August 29. There are nine medium to large scale paintings that all relate to my time on Skopelos and in Athens. Each one holds memories and impressions personal to me. But I hope I've also conveyed some sense of the monumental and ancient aspects of the place that are more universal. 

Artifact, Overlay, and In the Presence of Antiquities at Addington Gallery

This work was created at an unusually fast pace. From the three weeks I spent in Greece gathering visual and conceptual ideas to the intensive five weeks in the studio in June, a very condensed version of the creative process was underway. The work seemed fueled by an especially pure, direct interpretation of my experiences in Greece. 

Akropoli and Fragment at Addington Gallery

Usually, for me, the build-up to an exhibit spans many months and references a variety of experiences, sources, and memories. In terms of creative process, it is a gradual unfolding. Sometimes this creates a challenge in terms of consistency--the earliest work may not seem to be in the same vein as the final pieces. But usually I work back and forth on all or most of the paintings, looking to create a body of work that is consistent and integrated. In any case, there is a fairly long period in which various ideas are explored and refined.

With Overlays, my actual painting time was only about five weeks. After the first week or so, I felt confident about meeting the deadline because I was experiencing an unusually strong flow of ideas, and I felt focused and energized. About halfway through June, a studio visitor asked how long I'd been working on the paintings, and I had to stop and think. The answer at that point was "two weeks" which amazed us both. Some of the paintings were done and everything else was well underway. And at the end of June, I even had enough time left to do a ninth large painting, although the initial request from the gallery was for eight. 

Aegean Series, Addington Gallery

Aegean #1

The point of this story is not about how fast I can paint (I don't even consider that to be a virtue!) It is more that there was a sort of magic happening. I feel both grateful and perplexed by this, and wonder how this body of work fits with my typically slower creative process. Was I so on track because I was working toward a close deadline? If so, why wasn't there more stress or anxiety involved? Instead I felt mostly calm, focused, and pleased. Of course I had some frustrating days, but overall it seemed that a clear channel for expression had opened up. For me, the phrase "trust the process" takes on new meaning in light of this body of work. I see again how the creative process offers up endless surprises and new ideas. 

As a final touch, when I delivered the work to Dan Addington, he immediately saw how perfectly it fit into the available space, and he had it all laid out in a matter of minutes.  Although we hadn't gone into detail beforehand about specific size requirements, it turned out that the two smaller paintings fit exactly with the proportions of the two narrow hanging walls on either side of the doorway. The rest fell into natural groupings on the other three walls. Dan said he'd never had an easier time laying out an exhbiit. 

with Fragment at Addington Gallery

If you are in the Chicago area, or passing through thius summer, I hope you will stop in and see the work. Thanks!
Monday, June 17, 2019
  upon returning from greece

I’ve been back from Greece for almost three weeks now, so I’ve had some time to process my time there and reflect on my memories. And although I've shared photos and stories with family and friends it's always hard to convey the essence of any big experience. At least for me, most of what I take away from travel is internal and expressed through my work, responding to whatever surfaces in terms of memories and thoughts. I feel that what comes forward intuitively is the true distillation of the experience as a whole. 

From my time on the island of Skopelos, where Jerry McLaughlin and I taught for two weeks, the strongest impact was visual—the colors of the sea under various lighting and weather conditions, the angles of the white buildings, and the patterns made by the hundreds of stair steps we climbed every day to get up to the studio and down into the village. 

The sea colors ranged from dark and opaque at a distance to startling turquoise and aquamarine typically seen near the shore. On hazy days the horizon lined formed by sea and sky would almost disappear. It was a constant show every day—the studio we worked in had a spectacular sea view.

Blue was the dominant color in several paintings I did while teaching and has continued to play a role in the work I’ve done at home, though less prominently. White is the other dominant color in the landscape there—along with terracotta of the rooftops. The houses and other buildings are almost all white with colorful accents and set into a steep hillside along winding alleyways and narrow streets. The pattern of angles that result was always intriguing. So, these colors, shapes, and patterns have stayed with me as aspects of form. They are coming naturally into my new work and give some feeling of the atmosphere of Skopelos, but they were more pronounced in the work I did while I was on the island.

painted on Skopelos, 16"x12", oil/cold wax on paper

What has surprised me a bit since coming home is that the few days I spent in Athens are having the strongest impact in terms of feeding my work. I think that is because what I experienced there was as much conceptual as visual, and bring more meaning to my imagery. The sense of vast history was clear right away in the archaic remains that are still very present in the modern city. Passing by the ruins of 2500-year-old buildings while walking from my BnB to the metro was astonishing enough. But there was much more to be experienced in the incredible museums, on the Acropolis, and in the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos. I was often touched by the humanity and presence of these ancient people and by the strength of their accomplishments—not only the monumental architecture but the amazing realism of the figurative sculpture and the reliefs carved on gravestones. 

on the Acropolis
grave image, c.500 BC

ancient bronze figure

Because I was so struck by the antiquity of the city, I guess it is natural that references to artifacts and monuments, and even some vague figurative suggestions have been appearing in my work. I understand the connection but it has caused me to reexamine the usual statements I make about my work.  For years I’ve cited rugged, wild landscape as the basic source for my imagery. But in addition, in the past year, architectural references have appeared, coinciding with a new interest in shapes, angles, and contrast. And now these unexpected new ideas relating to the my experience in Athens.

Kerameikos, 30"x22" oil/cold wax on panel

In the Presence of Antiquity, 42"x32", oil/cold wax on panel

Artifact, 52"x36", oil/cold wax n panel

Although these new ideas come from outside my typical sources, I love the freedom I'm feeling with them. I'm not questioning whether they "fit" with past work-- just working intuitively, enjoying the process and moving forward. It seems that the further I go on this art journey, the less need I have to nail it all down, to explain and justify.  While working with limited focus has been very useful to me in the past, now the possibilities are expanding. 

I also find it interesting to re-read the original intentions that I set for my work years ago. They are not specific to a landscape reference--instead, they have to do with expressing power, presence, energy, a sense of the unknown, and personal connection, without mention of the source material for these ideas.  So although landscape served me well for years-- and is certainly still part of the mix--it seems very exciting to open up new pathways to those long-held intentions. 

I have more paintings in process or finished done in response to my time in Greece, and I plan to exhibit them at my show at Addington Gallery in Chicago that opens July 12. I hope that any friends in the Chicago area will stop in for the opening on the 12th (I will be there) or sometime later. The exhibit continues through August 29.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
  thoughts on teaching, from greece
Jerry McLaughlin and I have been teaching a two-week cold wax workshop since early May at Skopleos Foundation for the Arts on the Grecian island of Skopelos. As I write this, the class is almost finished. Tomorrow is a wrap-up session to review the work that's been done, and an open house and party for us and for the community. Then about half the class will stay one more day for some additional work time. After that Jerry and I will have the last day to unwind here, and then I'll be staying in Athens for a few days on my own. It is my first time in Greece, and hopefully not my last. 

Skopelos Town
Skopelos Foundation for the Arts

We have a varied group of students in the class, with artists from eight different countries, and ranging from those at beginning stages of their work with cold wax to more advanced and professional. Through these varying differences, they've come together as an enjoyable and motivated group-- curious, serious about their work, and open to exploring new ideas. A challenging aspect for Jerry and myself is that this workshop is twice the length of a normal "long" workshop, and it's a large group of 16 students. Moving from one to another throughout the day, making a sincere effort to listen to and connect with each person, and attempting to understand their concerns and offer appropriate solutions means that we're constantly calling on the resources acquired in our teaching experience. 

This aspect of teaching goes way beyond the preparation of demos, materials, presentations, discussions, and class agenda. It requires insightful, in-the-moment responses that originate in the eye, the heart and the intellect of the instructor. It takes not only a firm understanding of what makes a good painting, but a personal approach of flexibility and compassion, and an analytical mind that can explain (or try to explain) difficult aspects of abstract work. 

When all of this comes together in interactions with a student, it's very rewarding. But frankly, teaching can also be exhausting, and this has never been more obvious to me than now, at the end of this long and intense session on Skopelos. Yet in the big picture, Jerry and I also feel huge gratitude for the students who allowed us into their creative lives in such an open and trusting way, and for the opportunity to be here teaching them. 

view from the Foundation

Here, of course, means the spectacular setting of the Foundation, the beautiful town of Skopelos, and its natural surroundings. All day as we work, the sea and sky outside change in color and texture, and when we have some free time we've been able to explore the area. The village is set into a steep hillside (many, many stairs to climb every day!) beside a harbor, and is full of narrow, winding streets, whitewashed buildings with colorful shutters and doors, lemon trees, many beautiful flowering plants, lots of cats, and little shops and restaurants. The aged surfaces that so many of us love are everywhere. It's a place of wonderfully friendly people, great food and wine, and stunning natural beauty. Jerry and I are staying in a small pansion, where the kind host delivers fresh breakfast pastries every morning with a cheerful "kaliméra!" We've spent many evenings on the balcony outside my room that overlooks the whole glorious scene. Yes, life is good!

Saturday, April 06, 2019
  thoughts from ireland
I'm currently at Ballinglen Arts Foundation in County Mayo, Ireland for a month to teach and to paint; I've been coming here every year since 2013-- it always calls me back. The landscape is magnificent, the people welcoming, and the facilities at Ballinglen are top-notch. 

Today the weather (which is always a big topic here) is alternating between torrential rain, hail, high winds, and sunshine. The drama of the weather is matched by the rugged coastline and surf. Yet there are also gentle days with mild temperatures, mist, and light clouds over the softness of the boglands and green fields. 

at Benwee Head, Carrowteige, County Mayo

The contrasts in the land and its weather are compelling, and spending time here each year provides energy and new direction that fuels my ongoing work. I was here in 2013 when large, dark shapes first came into my paintings, beginning with some small monotypes and later expanding to works on panel. Although softer aspects of the landscape then took over for a time, strong shapes re-emerged in my work in the past few years. In much of my current work, a combination of strong, dramatic form and quieter, more gentle surfaces bring contrast into play. As I understand the strength that contrast has brought to my own work, I've been emphasizing it in my workshops, and it also plays a big role in the video workshop that Jerry McLaughlin and I are releasing very soon. 

In the recent painting below, the excavation of blanket bog that has yielded some fascinating pre-historic archaeological sites in North Mayo (where Ballinglen is located) is a strong influence. Ideas stemming from local archaeology also offer contrast: stone walls built only a few years ago reflect the same patterns as those built thousands of years ago, so there is an ever-present dichotomy of the ancient and the present. 

Unearthed, 42"x36" oil/cold wax on panel

During the workshop I taught here last week, we visited the nearby village of Belderrig for a tour conducted by Belderrig Valley Experience. Our guide, Declan Caulfield, is the grandson of Patrick Caulfield; while cutting turf in the 1930s, Patrick uncovered the first of the nearly 6000-year-old stone fences that would lead to the discovery of the vast network of ancient farm fields that once covered this area. These stone wall fences provide evidence of a large, organized and peaceful society spread over many square miles of this coastline. Declan's father Seamus established the renowned archaeological site at Céide Fileds as well as a smaller site near to where the first stone fence was found. Today, Declan leads tours of this latter site, with fascinating details about what is known of the people and their way of life in Neolithic and Bronze age times.

Declan's opening words to our group were to ask for our thoughts on the difference between scenery and landscape. Unbeknownst to him, his question went to the heart of what we had been working with in class. Although not necessarily focused on landscape, I had been challenging the students to explore various dichotomies that would bring depth to their abstract work. As well, I had presented the sources of abstract language as coming from what is seen, what is felt, and what is known. Declan believes that enjoying scenery is a somewhat superficial acknowledgment of a place's true nature, while the understanding of landscape is much deeper, involving memory, and knowledge in addition to what is seen. His remarks supported a lot of the ideas I'd introduced in class over the previous two days. A very nice coincidence, and a great opening for our tour! 

We spent the rest of the day exploring various places along the coast, including the rugged cliffs of Benwee Head and the quieter sand beach at Portocloy. As many times as I've been to these places, I never tire of them. With every weather condition, season, and time of day, the experience changes. 

Portocloy Beach, County Mayo 

I am looking ahead to several more weeks of painting in my studio at Ballinglen. I'm so grateful to have this time to explore the wild, unspoiled and ancient landscape of North Mayo, as well as my response to it in the studio.  Here is one painting I've done during my stay. As yet untitled, it is 12"x12", oil and cold wax on board:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
  exhibition thoughts
A few weeks have passed since the opening of my exhibit, Journeys, at Thomas Deans Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia. (To see an online catalog of this exhibit, please click here.) The months of preparation are over, the travel and opening were fun, and I'm back in New Mexico and starting to plan for other upcoming exhibits. I've also been thinking about the huge effort required to pull off a big exhibit-- mentally, emotionally and even physically.

Recently on our podcast, The Messy Studio, my son Ross and I discussed some of the practical aspects of preparing for an exhibit. (Please click here to listen to episode #57 if you're curious.)  We recorded that episode when I was in the last stages of getting the work ready for the Atlanta show, a cycle that will be repeated again in July for my exhibit at Addington Gallery in Chicago, and again in September when Jerry McLaughlin exhibit together at Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in the Bay Area. It is a busy year ahead, especially since I need to fit preparing for those exhibits around a heavy travel/teaching schedule. 

When an exhibit is proposed I'm always excited and almost always say yes, even though I know there will be intensity and exhaustion in the months before the opening. This intensity is inevitable given the emotional ups and downs in making a body of new work, the hard physical work of painting and preparing work for display, and all the decisions ahead that range from creative to practical. But it seems important to accept the challenge and the opportunity. 

Our friends and families tend to focus on the tangible rewards of an exhibit, with good wishes for sales and recognition, and afterward, there are typically questions about whether the show was successful in terms of what was sold. Of course, for many of us, sales are a very important source of income and vital to our relationship with our galleries. But they are only one measure of success, a bigger picture that includes less tangible aspects. 

Exhibits of any kind--whether solo or group, in commercial galleries or nonprofit spaces, are important steps on the creative journey. They keep an artist moving forward from one to another over time. With each show, there is the challenge to create the best work possible, to try new things, and to learn from the relationships between different pieces in the overall body of work. 

The demands and deadlines of an exhibit also provide focus and energy and are sometimes the best reason to say yes to scheduling a show. It's exciting to see the new work grow in numbers and ambition, to line up finished pieces and imagine them hanging in the gallery with white space around them and beautifully lit. The vision of what the body of work is about can push the artist through the inevitable frustrations, worries, and other emotional back-slidings. New ideas may come from the whole process and from seeing the work hung, and give direction for the future. Each exhibit is a milestone, a view of the artist on the creative journey. 

I'm always grateful for these milestones in my own art life. My exhibit in Atlanta was an opportunity to pursue work having to do with dualities and contrast. And, while much of my recent work is neutral in color, I also included some new, more colorful wor in the show. Here is the artist statement that accompanied the exhibit:

I paint in response to ancient and rugged places that I love, interpreting them intuitively, abstractly, through memory and emotion. The bogs and coast of County Mayo, Ireland and the canyons of northern New Mexico are two significant places for me, but I’m drawn to any landscape that is wild, rocky, and remote. Certain human environments also move me--the ruins of stone buildings, old Spanish houses with hidden courtyards, megalithic monuments. These ancient places seem to me both deeply familiar and yet unknowable and mysterious. When I paint, I want to express something of this strange duality--a feeling of nostalgia for something not yet experienced.  Other contrasting qualities also contribute to the deep and complex whole of a place. These include stillness and movement, strength and fragility, aging and timelessness, vastness and intimacy.  In my work I look for ways to express these dualities--strong value contrasts, variations in the texture and amount of detail, hard and soft edges. My overall process expresses another duality-- a sense of history and the present tense existing at once. This happens as I build layers of paint and cold wax medium, then scrape and dissolve away selected areas to revel what is underneath, creating complex surfaces. 
My exhibit continues at Thomas Deans through March 11. f you are in the Atlanta area, please check it out, or if not...click here. Thanks!

Saturday, December 29, 2018
  our video story

As 2019 gets under way, a huge, exciting and long-term project is nearing completion. Cold Wax Medium: A Video Workshopmade in collaboration with my partner at Squeegee Press, Jerry McLaughlin, is in the last stages of editing and revision. Making this video has been our goal ever since our book Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations (Squeegee Press, 2017) was published--it's another major stage in providing the comprehensive information that Jerry and I have been focused on since we began working together four years ago

In the big picture, we view the book, the video, and workshop attendance as unique and yet related opportunities. The book provides a wide base of information including topics we do not ourselves teach and is a hands-on studio reference many have found extremely valuable. In making the video, we acknowledge that artists are often visual learners, so techniques and other information are viewed as live action, as well as reinforced through on-screen text and is also ideal for people who cannot come to a workshop in person. At the same time, we know that neither book nor video can replicate the important interactions offered in a live workshop—so a combination of all three offers the most in-depth information. If this ideal situation is out of range, any of our resources alone will get you going with plenty of information.

on the set

Our professionally produced video was over a year in the making and is expected to be well over 5 hours in length. We're proud of its extensive content and quality--and for the latter are very grateful to our Bay Area, California production company, crushpix--with special thanks to its director, David Ronan. Our mission for the video has been to provide all the essential information conveyed in a five-day introductory workshop. We're aiming at a wide audience, including people eager to learn about cold wax for the first time, along with intermediate-stage artists who want a refresher, and experienced artists looking to expand their creative range.

Throughout the video we go into the "why" as well as the "how to" aspects of the process, because it's important for us to convey context and meaning as well as instructions for the techniques. We also want to present everything in a clear and concise manner. Like the book, the video can be viewed start to finish, but is most effectively used with a more holistic approach. Because most of the techniques can be used in any order, there is no one, linear way to view it. The video format allows viewers to skip around, watch sections multiple times, and gain personal understanding of how the various techniques may be put together.

Making the video has been an enormous amount of work--at times overwhelming. But in our years of working together, Jerry and I have built a relationship that is collaborative in all the best ways, and it's essential to accomplishing what we do. I love it that we work together without drama or ego demands--in spite of (or because of?) our very different personalities. After overhearing some of our online chat about the video, my husband said he appreciated that that we're able to operate with easy-going give and take and lots of good humor--but that we also freely disagree with no hard feelings. I'm so grateful to work with a person of Jerry's caliber--without his wide-ranging knowledge, intelligence, energy, focus, persistence, business skills, and friendship—none of this, neither the book nor the video (nor the tools, nor our ongoing plans) would be a reality. It’s been an amazing journey together so far, and things look bright for the future as well.

My own role in what we do goes back a number of years--seventeen to be precise, to the winter of 2001-2002, when I bought a small container of cold wax on impulse and started playing around with it. In those days of grindingly slow dial-up, I didn't use the computer much, and there was little information to be found anyway. I knew that the wax was a painting medium, but that was about it. I now know that artists had been using it for years primarily for its impasto effects--the body it adds to the paint--and to create a matte finish. Working on my own, though, my approach was original, without reference to what others had done. As the result of experimentation and trial and error--spurred on by satisfying results--the techniques I developed in those early years are the basic ones that are now so widespread in the cold wax community.

In working with cold wax, I learned its potential for layering, for the kinds of textures possible, and that solvents and scraping tools could selectively access the underlying layers. The color and textural effects that started to emerge in my work were very intriguing. At the time, my work was transitioning into abstraction from more realistic landscape painting, and cold wax opened up new ideas for this change. Instead of rendering organic textures, as I had been doing with straight oil paint, they now appeared as part of the process and had much more depth and authenticity.

My memories of developing these techniques is hazy. How did I decide to try using a windshield squeegee to move around the wax and paint mixture? When did I first start playing with my old printmaking brayers on the painting surface? I only know that my ideas built up slowly, and that for a while, I collected a lot of tools, texture making materials, and other objects to see what I could do with them. I remember that once I tried to make a large, spongy soft brayer out of a dowel and a piece of a styrofoam pool noodle (this was not a huge success). I also remember accidentally spilling solvent on a semi-dry surface and being excited at how this exposed underlying layers--and then learning, gradually, how to repeat this process in a deliberate and more controlled way. Over the next seven or eight years, these experiments and explorations continued. At some point, I started keeping a few notes, and from there Iwrote an article for Dorlands (the first brand of cold wax that I used) at their request. As other artists became curious about what I was doing, I launched two websites to share my information, and in 2009, I began teaching workshops about the basic approaches I had so far developed. There were not many of these at that point and I wondered how I would fill the time in my first 2-day class.

Over the next few years of teaching, I kept learning and developing new ideas. My students would often say that I should write a book about my techniques, but I had no real interest or spare time for that. Then Jerry came into the picture, a complete stranger who asked me to collaborate with him on a book. The story of the book is one we've told many times--how I resisted at first and how he won me over with his vision, his skills and insights and detailed plans. Together we learned about how to give and take, define and refine, and keep each other going when things got hard. We were also energized throughout the process by the intense, growing interest in the project from other artists ...a very large and supportive community for which we were--and still are--very grateful.

With the book in its second printing in 2017, we began to think and plan seriously for the video; once we began, it took over a year to outline and write the script (70,000 words), hire a production company, figure out the materials needed, what we needed for each demo or informational segment--and lots of other boring but important behind-the-scene details. We wanted to be totally prepared when the film crew arrived--but of course, it was all new to us, so some things had to be worked out on the spot. Filming took place over five very long days in May and August of 2018—the August session was added after our originally scheduled three days was not enough for all that we wanted to include.

our script

The night before we started filming I dreamed I had a major role in a play--it was opening night, but there had not been even one rehearsal. Added to that, it was some sort of period drama, and I could not find my costume, and I was very anxious. Then a voice from someone in the dream said "Just wear your own clothes." I woke up with my heart pounding, but those words were comforting. To me they meant "just be yourself" and allowed me to relax just a little about the whole issue of being on camera. Filming was nerve-wracking at first, but it became easier with practice. Watching the crew at work was intriguing, and the whole process gave me a new respect for actual actors. On the downside, the process could be surprisingly tedious. We really appreciated our crew's attention to detail and the need to get everything just right, but sometimes it was hard to be patient. We often needed to repeat actions to get the proper focus, do re-takes of the script, pause while lights were adjusted, and figure out the best setting or angle for a shot.

A tired toast after last day of filming

Once we finished with filming, the task of putting it all together was left to Crushpix along with our input and suggestions. We have been awed by David Ronan's ability to shape the many different segments into a cohesive whole, working in an intuitive, insightful, and innovative manner--especially considering that the material was completely unfamiliar to him going in. Our own work in the post-production stage has included going over footage, deciding how to format the bullet points and other on-screen information, providing still shots, and creating the two power points that are included. We've also watched everything in sequence more than once to make sure it all flows correctly and is clear and well-organized.

And so, it is nearly done. Our pre-sale period is underway; more information and sample footage can be found by clicking here. There are still a few days left to take advantage of our $100 off discount on pre-sales. We look forward to 2019 with gratitude for our many supporters--as always, we're humbled and amazed by the confidence and trust placed in us in regard to our work. A Happy New Year to all!
Monday, December 03, 2018
  my work now

After several weeks in Mexico last month (teaching in San Miguel de Allende) I've settled in for the winter in our New Mexico home with time and intention to do lots of painting. My memories of San Miguel are steeped in light, color, the textures of old doors and walls, cobblestone streets, and flowers everywhere. Jerry and I taught an advanced cold wax workshop there, and my husband Don joined me afterward for a short vacation.The city has a significant art community and we met some friendly and welcoming artists, two of whom took us out on fun day trips to the surrounding countryside. The whole visit was rich in experiences and visually exciting.

Now I'm overflowing with impressions not only from the time in Mexico but also from the the month of September which I spent in northern Spain. On the best painting days I feel loose and open, inviting whatever impulses come to the surface as I process these experiences. As usual, memory has a way of distilling the most significant impressions--yet even with memory's help, there is overload. 

Secluded #1, 14"x11" 

Fortunately I'm grounded by formal concerns--my focus on strong shapes and contrast and in some paintings, a renewed interest in color (after a long spell of using mainly a neutral palette). I'm playing with negative shapes, and defined vs. subtle, shifting edges. These explorations are not new--I've been pursuing them for about two years now--but I'm still learning, gaining more insight and fluency. I'm slowly finding new ways of approaching the panel that work, even as the outcome is unknown. 

Dwelling, 48"x36 ", oil/cold wax on panel
Compared to these aspects of form, the ideas behind my current work are harder to describe. But I don't mind that they are elusive--it's an interesting journey, processing the experiences of travel and searching out what has been meaningful to me, and how it connects to my overall ideas. This is an intuitive process; the results can surprise and intrigue me. 

For example, some images in my recent work have an architectural feeling, something that is completely new for me. Their shapes and compositions bring to mind the many houses in both Spain and Mexico with inner courtyards, worlds hidden behind gates and doors. Glimpses of windows and angles reminiscent of walls or corridors have appeared in the work. Since I've never abstracted from buildings before, I admit to some resistance at first. My painting has been about landscape and rugged, wild places for so long and I always describe it in that way. But what I've realized is that many of the old houses and other buildings in my travels evoke for me a sense of mystery that is not unlike certain rocky places I've been in nature. This feeling has something to do with enclosure and being surrounded by high walls--private places, childhood adventures in hidden forts. 

Other images in my work relate directly to the landscape and remind me of pathways, the Camino in Spain, and ancient sites. These images, like the architectural ones, feel like actual places to me but their spaces are ambiguous and dreamlike.

Where to Wander #1, 16"x16" oil/cold wax on panel

I often talk to my students about intentions for their work, and it may seem from these descriptions that my own are a bit murky. But intentions are based in simply knowing what moves you, what lies at your core, what you find visually exciting and emotionally compelling. 

For me that means painting about what I think of as my emotional home, or my soul-home--the core of me, the place where I am both most myself and most connected to others. When a painting is working for me, it's like I'm bringing some aspect of this place into being. Yet any one painting is only ever a fragment of the whole. My paintings often, to me, embody a feeling of longing, or of nostalgia for a place never fully experienced. 

I've written and talked about my intentions in various ways over time. Perhaps as we advance in our work, our intentions come into focus and can be thought of in simpler ways, while at the same time, they open up new ideas. For now this explanation of painting my soul-home seems as close to true as I can express, and gives me an expansive feeling of possibility. 



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       Rebecca Crowell