pratt exhibit, a few more thoughts
The opening was several weeks ago now, but I have been appreciating the intervening time to digest the experience of my exhibit, Beneath the Surface
, at the Pratt Museum
in Homer, AK. My post of July 27th
and others previous to that have told the ideas behind the exhibit and what it took to pull everything together, and my last post
included a link to photos of the installation. So--I've covered it in all the basic ways, and yet I'm far from done with it because I'm still thinking about what I learned, and new ideas are occurring to me as a result.
What was most satisfying about the exhibit was that the work unfolded around the theme of "beneath the surface" in an organic way. At first, I felt a bit stalled in approaching the theme of archaeology, even though I had chosen it and described it in my proposal to the museum. For several months last fall, I wrestled with what to do, and came up with a few small paintings that eventually did make the cut for the show. But mostly, I put it all aside, or so I thought, feeling more interested in working with ideas from my time in Ireland where I had spent part of October and November.
Yet at some point I realized that the ideas for everything I had in progress--the Ireland paintings and the Pratt paintings--were coming from the same source, in a universal sense. That is, memories of ancient surfaces, hints of landscape, rugged textures. In retrospect, I see that this sense of wholeness freed my thoughts in regard to the work for the exhibit. It changed from something I needed to "figure out" as an isolated topic--like a paper I had assigned myself--into part of the flow of all of my work. Thereafter, I engaged in more free association and found my way gradually into the variations on the theme that are seen within the show--archaeology as process, geographic strata, earthy textures and weathered surfaces, and reference to specific artifacts.
I even realized that certain works in process did relate to the theme of the show more than I had seen--including the main panel of what would be the signature painting of the exhibit (Midden, 50"x30" below.) I simply needed to recognize it as such, and this showed me that my ideas were indeed developing on an intuitive level, as they always do.
As described in my last post, I did have a focused time at AIR Serenbe
to solidify my thoughts about the show, and get some of the larger paintings underway. The more I closed in on the show, and found sharper definition in my ideas, the more I referenced the specific imagery from the Pratt--the photos they had sent of various artifacts--and the copies of stratigraphic drawings I had, that were done by archaeologists during their field work.
Several people that I was talking to at the opening expressed surprise when I explained how the process unfolded for me. They found it interesting that the more specific images in the show were for the most part done late in the game--they had assumed that these were likely "studies" for the more abstract work. It makes sense, but apparently this sort of academic or linear approach to abstraction isn't my natural inclination.
What I loved about creating this body of work was exactly that discovery about myself and my process. That, using as a point of departure an interesting idea a broad theme like archaeology, I could explore, experiment, noodle around, try this and that, follow my hunches, relax and trust the process--in short, I could work in all of my usual ways, and still arrive at a cohesive body of work exploring a particular theme.
That said, there were plenty of challenges involved, such as the self critical step of deciding how various paintings were or were not relating to one another and to the theme. There were also paintings that demanded that I exploit all of my technical skills and come up with new ones to create certain textures and visual effects. Yet I enjoyed these challenges, and overall the process was not nearly as intimidating as it had seemed to me in the beginning, when I gulped and realized what I had committed to producing and exhibiting! This exhibit has been for me one of the most satisfying ever.
The exhibit runs through September 29th, if you happen to be in Alaska...
an evolving painting
Below are six photos showing various stages of the same painting, a diptych comprised of two 36"x24" panels (36"x48" overall), done with oil and mixed media (including cold wax medium, sand, powdered pigments and charcoal.)
These photos were taken back in March, while I was artist in residence at the Serenbe
community near Atlanta, Georgia. At Serenbe, I started (and in a few cases finished) many of the paintings I am currently exhibiting at the Pratt Museum
in Homer, AK. Serenbe provided a wonderful time of focus to develop my ideas for my current exhibit, Beneath the Surface
(which I have written about in several previous posts, including this (Click)
Perhaps because I was free of many of the distractions of normal life at Serenbe, I managed to document this painting through its various stages of development. I've often thought of doing this and have made various starts in that direction, but I always seem to abandon the idea. However, during my residency time, I got into the habit of shooting a few photos on most days when I left the studio.
The photos above show the progression of the painting, Geo #2 at six points from beginning to almost finished. Below are two photos of the same painting in its finished state, installed at the Pratt Museum (the exhibit is on view through September 29.) I think I probably skipped a few stages during my documentation but the "in progress" photos do show the general idea. Once I got the painting home I added more powdered pigment and sand for texture, and worked it all over for additional depth.
I am often asked about the underlying layers in my work and how the process unfolds, and perhaps these photos will provide some insight. I also know
that there will be those who will gravitate to an earlier stage and wonder why I kept going! But after a certain point, my ideas for finishing the work were set on a very rock-like surface.
This idea is not where the painting began, though. Originally I thought of working with the photos of beads that I had received along with other artifact photos from the Pratt. But I'm always open to shifts in my original idea and I also know that an abandoned idea may come around again. For example, compare the third photo at the top of the page with the painting below, as it hangs in the Pratt exhibit:
This is a much smaller painting (10"x10") done after my time at Serenbe, and it reflects the direction that Geo #2 was on for a time. Perhaps is more suited in scale to depicting the tiny beads.
It is a common response for artists in my classes to regret painting over or changing direction in their work, but I believe that our art brains take note of worthy ideas even if the current painting is not right for their development. Building a painting in layers, as I do, means that there are many paintings and painting ideas under the final surface, and some will re-emerge in subsequent paintings.
In my next post I'll include more photos and thoughts about the Pratt exhibit. It was a very satisfying experience for me and I am still processing what it has taught me, and where it might lead...in the meantime, click on the photo below for an online album of installation shots.
for an online album of the installation.