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.
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.
|Dwelling, 48"x36 ", oil/cold wax on panel|
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.