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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, June 26, 2012
  looking back, paintings from the mid 80s
In my last post, I traced developments in my work starting with undergrad explorations of natural forms, through the surrealism of my years in graduate school at Arizona State University in the mid 80s. In this post, I'll show a few examples from the later 80s to early 90s. It is a very quick run through some of the changes that my work has gone through--a preview of the first part of a slide talk about my work I'll be presenting next month at Cullowhee Mountain Arts near Asheville, NC.

Shortly after my husband and I left Arizona and moved back to our home in Wisconsin, a whole new phase of life began...pregnancy, giving birth and life with two young kids. My sons were born in 1986 and 1989. I don't have much to post from those years, but it's not because I wasn't in the studio. I did continue to carve out time to made art, to participate in exhibits, to connect with galleries. (I remember an opening reception in which a certain baby carried in the crook of my arm overextended the capacity of his diaper. Not a pretty sight!) I just don't have much to show that has survived, or that I have good images of. I suppose I was too overwhelmed to keep good records or preserve my work well.

The large scale drawing below is a surviving example of my work from this time period. Pregnancy and birth inspired abstract imagery related to the birth canal, to seeds and growth. My lack of extended studio time led me to prefer drawing (charcoal and pastel) and collage, media that took less time to set up and clean up than painting. I continued to explore an abstract vocabulary that was related to my inner life and experience, but most of it was more accessible than previous, surreal images. (Something about having kids made me feel more connected to other humans in general, and without it being a conscious thing, I used iconography with more universal appeal than the strange, convoluted forms of my grad school work.) During this time I was involved in a business start up of a parenting newspaper, and besides being the editor for the paper, I wrote columns about creativity and children. I also taught some summer workshops on abstraction for adults. It's a wonder I got any artwork done at all, and I was not terribly prolific, but have always felt proud that I kept my hand in.

Once my boys were in school full time I had more studio time, although I was also working part time teaching at two university art departments. Around this time I began my first long term, successful gallery association, with the now defunct Suzanne Kohn Gallery in St. Paul, MN. I continued to develop a personal abstract language, moving back into oil painting. A lot of my imagery continued the theme of the downward pointing triangle shape seen in the drawing above. It evolved into a shield, a shell, a female symbol. I began to sense the power and expansiveness of the abstract language. The painting below, Shield, is from 1987.

To be continued!
Saturday, June 16, 2012
  from there to here

I posted a while ago about the difficult transition into my current abstract style which happened about ten years ago, and this time, I'd like to go further back--the painting above of beetles is from 1980 when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I painted this just before my first experiments with abstraction, and from then on, throughout the 80s and 90s, my work bounced all over between representation and pure abstraction, seeking a place on that continuum that felt right for me.

My first forays into abstraction involved breaking up, overlapping and layering fragmented images of natural objects such as insects, shells and bones. The painting below is an example (no date, but I think it's 1981.)

In my Bachelor of Fine Arts senior show in 1982, I showed mostly this kind of work, with insect forms predominating. Sometimes they were fragmented (as above) and sometimes set into surreal landscapes. Around this time, as I was preparing for graduate school, I wrote in one of my sketchbooks that my goal for the next few years was to learn to paint abstractly. I commented that I had absolutely no idea how to go about this. It seems an odd thing to write now, as I look back, because I can see that I was already on that path. I had moved away from factual rendering of form-- the still life approach that served me as I began my observations of insects, rocks and shells--and was seeking a different kind of spatial depiction. Although I was eager to explore new territory in abstraction, I know now that what I learned from realistic depiction was--and continues to be-- extremely useful, enhancing my work in terms of technical ability, and the understanding of basic art elements.

The etching below from about 1980 also shows an interest in the textures and forms of landscape that have been a consistent focus for me over the years.

In graduate school at Arizona State University (1982-1985) the space in many of my paintings entered the realm of the surreal, while the forms mutated and morphed away from identifiable natural objects. They retained a connection to landscape though, and to the strange plant forms of the desert. This work seemed to flow out of my subconscious, and in looking back, I see that I was fearless about painting the oddest things and putting them out for critique. I find a lot of this work disturbing to look at now, so raw and primal. In the arc of my development from early days into maturity I've become far more subtle, reserved and gentle in my work. A natural progression, though, if one's work reflects inner states of mind and being.

Please stay tuned for my next post, and a quick run through paintings from the years 1985-2000.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
  on the road...california
Greetings from California--I'm away on the first of my summer teaching trips and enjoying California hospitality, beautiful weather, great food and the artists who came to my class in Yreka.

I flew into San Francisco last Tuesday, rented a car, and stayed with my friend, artist Phyllis Lasche that night. It is always a delight to see Phyllis, and she had a beautiful new cold wax painting on the easel (I am kicking myself for not getting a photo of that.) She treated me to a lunch that was also photo worthy--the first of a number of memorable California meals featuring the creative use of fresh vegetables, melt in your mouth strawberries, interesting sauces and other healthy ingredients. From Phyllis's house I drove north to visit with Rodney Thompson and his wife, Kathy. I was completely charmed by their home, gardens, and Rodney's studio. His large scale, stunning cold wax painting (Suspect Terrane, 6ft x 5 ft) displayed in the dining room (see below) immediately drew me in with its complex, subtle textures and glowing colors. Rodney and Phyllis are both highly developed artists who have taken Oil and Wax Workshops from me in the past, and there is special pleasure to see where they have taken their work in cold wax.

From Rodney's place, I headed up to Yreka to prepare for the three day intro Oil and Wax Workshop that just finished today, As I have been so many times before, I was impressed by the focus, curiosity and enthusiasm for the process of those who came. In this class I was especially interested in some of the original ideas for possible personal directions with the medium, including use with sculpture and fiber materials. Every class is a unique mix of backgrounds and experiences, personalities and approaches. This was a small group but very focused and interactive.

Tomorrow I leave for Davis, CA and a private class, then dinner with an old friend from graduate school and a flight home Tuesday night. I look forward to a few weeks at home before the next round of travel.


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       Rebecca Crowell