Artist's Statement for "Transition - 2016"
I LOVE pattern. I LOVE water. In fact, in the past, friends have nicknamed me “Water Woman”. My concern for our California drought of the past 4 years has been the driving force behind the creation of these paintings this year. Though not always apparent in the imagery I have chosen, the plight of our water situation has been my main concern as a theme.
The large increase in the scale of my paintings this past year has directly impacted my painting process. A bigger format has both encouraged and allowed me to experiment with new techniques. I also began incorporating cut-out shapes into some of the pieces, and collaged in patterned papers to both enhance and delight the viewer’s sense of discovery.
Drip! Drip! Water everywhere, water nowhere, California in the past four years. There is more water than usual in some areas, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, more erratic weather behavior for sure. In other areas there is too little water, with drought conditions as a result, and no relief in sight. What is water's role in the creation of life and civilization? It is essential. Yet water has the power to give life as well as swiftly destroy. Are we taking our water and its sources for granted? Are we misusing it with the tendency towards water privatization, the selling of water to make a buck? Do we have a man-made crisis?
These types of questions and thoughts are usually uppermost in my mind as I have been working on the paintings in the 2016 series. Though these concerns about our environment may not be totally apparent in the imagery of each painting, they are the driving force behind their creation. This is because each of these paintings has a correlation with our environment and water in its title. Hear me out on this,
Rain Makes a Garden Grow,
It Takes Water to Grow a Flower,
Spun Smoke and
The Last Hurrah.
And as I painted them I was also concentrating on formal elements. Their composition was very important to me, as well as color palette, hard edges/soft edges, overlapping shapes, what kind of space I am creating, pattern, use of the drip as an accident or a purposeful meaning, horizon line, no horizon line.
Artist's Statement for "ELE & FLO"
I love color, color, color! The high emotions, the low emotions, the exuberance associated with luscious color palettes drive me wild. For a long time I have worked with subdued colors, but in this body of work I made the conscious decision to work with brightness, pushing saturation and bold color schemes as much as I can. All of the paintings in this body of work are about color, pattern and composition. The medium I have chosen is water-soluble wax crayons on watercolor paper, sometimes with the addition of acryla gouache or acrylic.
I have carefully staged each of these still lifes in my studio. Each piece is comprised of fabric, flowers and in most cases a small wooden or ceramic elephant. The elephant is a symbol of my storied life with my husband, Johannes. About 45 years ago we bought a large wooden elephant for each other instead of engagement rings and have been collecting them ever since. Hours spent at the fabric store have yielded just the perfect patterned fabric for me to use. And my love for color has seduced me into selecting beautiful, fresh, single flowers, usually three for each piece. Because of my traveling schedule I have had to use my camera to take my studio set up with me where ever I go. Each piece is shot from above, with particular attention to light, shadow and composition.
That being said, I use the photo as my studio still life set up, but then begins the intuitive process of altering the composition, the color saturation, the depth of the shadows until I reach the point where the painting has become what it was always meant to be.
By the time I had completed the Pony Express Rider series (2013) I felt I could go no further developing that way of working. I felt an incredible urge to explore a brighter color palette, pattern and objects observed from the real world.
A friend turned me on to a new medium (for me) called water-soluble wax pastels which began influencing my work in new ways. I began by painting single fresh flowers from a nearby flower shop. Then I moved on to creating my own still lifes. I incorporated patterned fabric, real flowers and other objects significant to my life, such as a small wooden elephant, into each composition. Each of the works are viewed from above, paying special attention to light and shadow. I have been thoroughly enjoying working this way.
The title of my show, PANTA RHEI: everything flows, is taken from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. It is one of the main concepts of his materialistic philosophy.
My new series uses the Pony Express as a metaphor to comment on how we've arrived at our civilization's current condition. The Pony Express was a 19th century horseback mail delivery and relay system. It lasted only 18 months but is considered to have furthered European, Puritan and Manifest Destiny philosophies. It set in motion an emphasis on 'faster, bigger, better, never stop', concepts that remain constants in our postmodern cultural landscape.
My work has shifted to a concern about the environment, global climate change, extinction of species - palm trees growing on icebergs; these become natural and logical to my way of thinking. Subject matter is not the only new element in these works: I am consciously choosing to combine patterns I create and take the work one step closer to abstraction. There is a flattening of the picture plane and a letting-go of the horizon line; I am free to move in a direction that allows me to experience what the paint can do - allowing it to guide me out of preconceived notions and approaches.
The point and purpose of my art making is to squelch the unrest that lies within me. My work is about placing the unrest represented by a tangible object at the forefront which resonates, titillates and excites me, but in the doing of it calms me down, restores my piece of mind and makes me feel complete.
My process is intuitive. I am attracted to certain images corresponding to my emotional and mental state at that period of my life, that time of choosing. I do not question why. I simply move forward trusting my selectivity. I experiment with my choices frantic almost to the point of obsession in terms of placement, overall composition and attention to my use of black/white and positive/negative shapes.
To some my very detailed compositions may seem too crowded with every millimeter of space activated, but I hope this aspect of the work only serves to heighten the tension of the moment. My paintings always make me think of Mozart who was accused of having too many notes in his musical compositions.
Choice of scale is vital to my work. In this new body of paintings, the small scale of the scenes transforms them into miniatures rather than landscapes. They become, I hope, a view into a scene in which the participant who has left behind an artifact is gone. We are left to experience that moment.
Though I paint landscapes, I am not a landscape painter. I use the outdoors mainly as a setting for urban and social issues. In this body of work, I have been preoccupied with placing images of industrial or domestic trash in the scenes to create a raucous disharmony with the surroundings. I choose provocative images that trigger an association in my mind or that, combined with other ones, form the basis for my narratives. They seem to exist in a dream state, neither present nor past, neither truth nor fiction. The groups of people who have found their way into these scenes are perhaps bystanders to whatever event they are witnessing.
Since these narratives in reality have never actually occurred, they open up for me the possibility of painting them in a mixture of styles and techniques - line drawings or cartoons intermixed with realistically rendered objects, tightly rendered areas interspersed with smooth gradations of color. Often my work is a constant jarring pairing of visual contrasts - sharp and soft focus, three-dimensional areas and flat areas, textures surrounded by smoothness.
The juxtaposition of the content in these paintings can often be unsettling, as can the formal elements. In this way I hope I challenge myself and viewers to reconsider what aspects of life are real: the threats, the struggle, the private moments.
February 8, 2007
The following thoughts are taken from a book on paintings by Mark Tansey. They aptly describe some of my own thought processes.
On realism and representation:
"I am not a realist painter. In the nineteenth century, photography co-opted the traditional function of realist painters, which was to make faithful renditions of "reality." Then the realist project was taken over by Modernist abstraction, as later evidenced in the title of Hans Hofmann's boook Search for the Real. Minimalism tried to eliminate the gap between the artwork and the real. After that, the project itself dematerialized. But the problem for representation is to find the other functions beside capturing the real.
In my work, I am searching for pictorial functions that are based on the idea that the painted picture knows itself to be metaphorical, rhetorical, transformational, fictional. I am not doing pictures of things that actually exist in the world. The narratives never actually occurred. In contrast to the assertion of one reality, my work investiages how different realities interact and abrade. And the understanding is that the abrasions start within the medium itself.
I think of the painted picture as an embodiment of the very problem that we face with the notion "reality." The problem or question is which reality? In a painted picture, is it the depicted reality, or the reality of the picture plane, or the multidimensional reality the artist and viewer exist in? That all three are involved points to the fact that pictures are inherently problematic. This problem is not one that can or ought to be eradicated by reductionist or purist solutions. We know that to successfully achieve the real is to destory the medium; there is more to be achieved by using it than through its destruction."
April 27, 2006
My newest works from this year are full of tension and movement created by strong contrast of light within them as well as visual comparison of mass and line. I think these qualities bring to life some of the emotions I am feeling as I work and are a part of my physical make up. Without these components the paintings do not seem to me to breathe - they appear dead and muddled. These concerns in the paintings and drawings are approached in various ways. With the drawings I limit myself to a monochrome palette, i.e., the graphite, and I am very involved in exploring the contrast between mass and line, as in the drawing False Impressions. I also enjoy playing with the drawing's shape and format on the white of the paper.
In the paintings I am extremely conscious around the exploration of light. For example, in Situation Atrophy I have maximized the contrast in the foreground elements, especially the group of figures, not only to heighten their dramatic quality and importance, but in comparison to create a dreamlike quality to the muted tones of the house and figures in the background. In Joy I have painted in light shining only upon three elements; the garbage in the foreground and the house and tree in the background to force our eyes to view those elements and create a dialogue with them. In my newest painting, Forest, I have intentionally created a greenish, glowing light over the sharply delineated logs neatly stacked in a pile, against the softness of the building, trees and pinkish- reddish burning sky in the background and have heightened interest by using stark white for the garbage pieces scattered about the lot painting them as crisply as I can.
Devastation, and the atrophy of the individuals in our modern, corporate-run urban society are big themes in the works. They are themes I am constantly aware of in daily life. It is not so much the crumbling of the institutions that bothers me but the crumbling of the morals of mankind in their relationships with one another and in their goals for the future of society. The fact that we are practically powerless to effect change under the reign of the gigantic corporations of this century I find very disturbing. However, another side of me is very much tied to and grounded in nature, and that is why, for example, the juxtaposition of garbage and logs or plants and people. Trees pop up in many of my works as well, either as full and whole or as gnarled leafless branches. But for me regardless, they are a symbol of my hope that we will live on.
In these newest series of drawings, I have enjoyed drawing with the graphite as if it were clay, i.e., literallly molding the mass into the paper and contrasting it with delicate line.
Lately I feel like working with paper maché, will I one day?
Jan. 12, 2006
What goes through my head like a record spinning over and over: 'Fantasy and Reality, Fantasy and Reality, balance it, what is more convincing for the narrative? Choices, choices, choices.
Nov. 14, 2005
It doesn't have to be exclusively about a white glow, red could do just as well.
July 10, 2005
the thing is: Push it to the nth degree - whatever it might be.
Jan. 24, 2005
I do want that contrast between light and dark - very much.
Jan. 23, 2005
I used to think it was the angle that was so important to the composition of the painting, now I think that the space within it is also important.
Below are quotes that have inspired me:
"If it lives through this - it will live much more than it ever did when it was the stable image."
"I paint what it feels like to look."
"In framing light, the light frames us."
"Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details: others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart."
"Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."
"In mercantile democracies, however, the practice of secular art, from Edouard Manet to Cindy Sherman, has invariably been the product of "wrong-thinking" made right.Because such works represent more than what they portray. They represent us in the realm of the visible, and if they represent enough of us, and if we care enough, yesterday's "wrong-thinking" can begin to look all right. It's a dangerous game, but it's the only one in town."
"If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise they'll kill you."
"the world is not to be narrowed til it will go into the understanding, but the understanding to be expanded and opened til it can take in the image of the world."
"less concerned with the production of grand and majestic terror, the current gothic sublime reflects an apprehensive, morally ambiguous state of mind, characterized by the possibilities of self-dissolution, a sense of waltzing on the edge of the eternal abyss."