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!
Since my last post, I’ve been to New Zealand for three
weeks, teaching two workshops, and exploring many coastal and inland areas around
Auckland with my Squeegee Press partner, Jerry McLaughlin, and Norma Hendrix of
Cullowhee Mountain Arts. As I write this, part of me is still walking a black beach;
these sublime expanses of volcanic sand were my favorite places of all that we experienced.
There was so much beauty everywhere, though--so many
spectacular places and interesting sights, such good camaraderie and excellent workshop
sessions--that is hard to re-enter ordinary life (even though I when I returned,
it was to our place in New Mexico, which is its own kind of paradise.) The
first night I was back, I dreamed about paintings all night. These were compelling
abstract images that I felt directed to paint. At one point I woke up and
thought of looking for my sketchbook, which was someplace in the jumble of my
unpacked luggage. But I told myself I would remember the images, and fell back
asleep. In the morning, the more specific ideas and images were gone. I was
left only with an impression of light, misty atmosphere, oddly shaped islands,
and dark sand. At first I was disappointed. But then I recognized the
impressions that I had retained. This was how it was on Karekare, one of the
most beautiful black sand beaches that we visited. The dreams had distilled for
me a memory that seems now to me the essence of the trip as a whole.
This was a gift, because my work is about expressing
essence. In the midst of travel, identifying what is most meaningful to me--and
will ultimately influence my work--is usually not clear; sensory impressions,
thoughts and feelings crowd together, especially when there is little solitude
or down time. In New Zealand, the days were full and sometimes exhausting, and
I never took the time to write notes or draw, or do anything other than a few
quick paintings during the workshops to process the experience. But every time
we went exploring, I was taking it all in. I felt very present and observant,
and focused in the way that travel opens the eyes.
I did take a lot of photos. For me, photography is another
aspect of being present, an exercise in seeing and appreciating the reality of
the moment. I never directly reference photos in the studio, but find that
there is an alignment between what I paint and what I choose to photograph.
When I paint, it is memory that serves me best. And of the
many memories the New Zealand trip, there will be only a few that impact my
work. Until I am alone in my studio, back home after such a trip, I don’t know
what these will be, or in what ways they will be expressed. The process of
filtering out these essential memories is mysterious and intriguing to me. I
often feel that there is symbolic or archetypal meaning in what comes through, yet
there is no need to understand or explain. There are simply compelling visual ideas
Karekare, 24x36", oil, sand, cold wax on panel
For the past few days I’ve been in my little New Mexico studio,
a bit jet-lagged but impatient to resume work. The remaining fragments of my
painting dreams are an intriguing and elusive guide as I feel my way into new pieces.
The fact that my dreaming brain was so active in this way makes me believe that
the process of finding essence is working at a deep level, and that is
exciting. On the other hand, I try to avoid expectations about what will evolve
in the studio—my basic approach is to give myself over to intuitive moves, while
making choices that build strong work. While I can be guided by a particular
mood or visual idea, for the most part I don’t work with specific goals in mind.
My night of painting dreams left me with a sense of sweet mystery and beautiful
possibility, but I need to trust in my own way of working to find my way there.