Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Second painting in a series of eight ~ One Crow for Sorrow

One crow for sorrow
Two crows for mirth
Three crows for marriage
Four crows for birth
Five crows for laughing
Six crows for crying
Seven crows for sickness
Eight crows for dying
Nine crows for silver
Ten crows for gold
Eleven for a secret never to be told.

While I was working on this painting a very dear friend died. This was a man who so generously loved the many who loved him in return, that when he died, suddenly and quietly in his home, close to his wife whom he adored, I think it's entirely possible that just for that moment the air left the sky. I think the sun could have dimmed just a bit and the trees may have bowed slightly toward the earth. And I can imagine that the stars in the universe, in which this man had found great delight, must have blinked and swirled and created a celestial wake when he left us.

The Crow in Native American culture represents law. Crow is the keeper of sacred texts and records.

I call this painting One Crow for Sorrow, from the old nursery rhyme, but I didn't paint sorrow. Instead I took the idea of the sacred texts and combined that with the secret never to be told. I'm not sure why. I just did. On a sheet of parchment I copied prayers to the earth from writers May Sarton, Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson and others. I wrote over my writing in different directions until, in reverse, it was unreadable; keeping it secret. I cut that into the oval shape and applied it as collage.

One Crow for Sorrow is 24" X 18" X 2" with acrylic, charcoal, ink, graphite and paper collage.

First painting in a series of eight ~ By All the Eagle in Thee, All the Dove

In my last post I wrote about the next series of eight paintings I will be doing for a show at the National Institutes of Health. Each of the eight will be based on a specific bird as totem. I chose the eight birds from those which Native Americans hold as totem animals. Other than taking the main idea of what those totems stand for, the rest of what I'll be using for inspiration will come from other sources as well as my own feelings about the subject and plain intuition.

As a Native American totem Eagle represents the power of the Great Spirit and the ability to live with a connection to spirit while remaining grounded and balanced on earth. As I painted I thought of the relationship of our sense of self with our higher mind as represented by earth and sky. I included the image of the eagle feather, a healing tool.

Another source of reference was a quote I found in Bartlett's when I looked up 'eagle'. In the 1600s English cleric and poet Richard Crashaw wrote a poem called The Flaming Heart Upon the Book of Saint Teresa (As she is usually expressed with a Seraphim beside her.) In this fascinating poem are the lines By all the eagle in thee, all the dove, By all thy lives and deaths of love... Crashaw was considered a metaphysical poet and an online edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica states that his poetry drew parallels "between the physical beauties of nature and the spiritual significance of existence". I felt this echoed the theme of earth/self/groundedness and sky/spirit/higher mind. That is how the dove came to being in the painting.

This painting is 24" X 18" X 2" and uses acrylic, charcoal, ink, paper collage, leaf fragments, colored pencil, prints and stamps.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Three new paintings 12.17.16

When I got back from the Women of Abstract Expressionism show at The Mint, Charlotte, NC, a few of my friends mentioned that it would be interesting to see how that experience influenced my work. I wondered about that, too. I began these three new paintings thinking about the show, those women painters. I thought about how much paint they used! And that's at least one thing I brought to these new pieces. Not that I used as much impasto as they did, but I was aware of allowing myself to apply more paint than I have in the past. My surfaces still remain quite flat, though.

Then, the other thing I found myself thinking about was a conversation I had recently with a group of artists where I heard myself wailing about how much I suffered trying to get a painting to work (I think I've posted about this theme before.) And I said to myself, "Enough with the gnashing of teeth, just enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be, and can be, fun!".

(The painting angst comes from worrying about the audience, and we all know that is the kiss of creative death. When a painter is staring at a work wondering if it is acceptable, that painter is kindest when remembering the one to please is her/himself.)

This painting, Talk Between the Houses, 18" X 14" X 2", has acrylic, charcoal, graphite, 
colored pencil, ink, pastel and paper collage. 
Below is how it started out, where all the paint, of which I spoke, was used. I look for details in the initial surface for clues about what to enhance to create the images. The first thing I found was that "fissure" traveling up the middle of the image area and I went from there.

Below is the beginning of Safe Sweet Glad Gay Houses, 12" X 12" X 2". (I forgot to photograph it before applying the collage and pastel.)

Here is the finished painting, with acrylic, ink, charcoal, pastel and paper collage with monoprints.

And the beginning of the third, Willing the Keepsakes, 12" X 12" X 2".

You can see that I warmed it up quite a bit, though some of that change in color is the different lighting when photographed. This one has acrylic, charcoal, colored pencil and paper collage.

The next series I'm going to be working on is eight paintings 24" X 18" X 2" for an exhibit at the East Alcove Gallery in The National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Given that they will all appear together and be the same size, and I'm doing them as a series specifically for this gallery space, I wanted to have a theme. I don't normally do that; I rarely start a painting with any intention at all. But this feels like a different kind of challenge.

When I was in Charlotte I stayed in a lovely Airbnb hosted by a very nice couple who asked about my work and looked at my website. The last day I was there I ran into Stan and he mentioned that he liked my work but found it rather melancholy. He said, "I don't know much about art, but I see a lot of longing there; none of the birds are flying and the doors and windows on the little houses are all closed". Hm, I thought. Interesting.

That didn't make me want to run back to my studio and paint flying birds, but it did make me think about birds and my relationship to them. I decided that what I wanted to do with this new series was to choose eight totem birds and create paintings, not depicting the birds exactly, but something to do with what they stand for as totems. That's all I can tell you at this point. The eight wooden panels have been started with the first layers of paint (below). Now the... fun...part.

Eagle ~ Spirit
Hawk ~ Messenger
Crow ~ Law
Owl ~ Deception
Raven ~ Magic
Swan ~ Grace
Turkey ~ Give-Away
Grouse ~ Sacred Spiral

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Women Abstract Expressionists Exhibit at the Mint Museum

The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina currently has an exhibit of twelve women abstract expressionists, showing their paintings from the 1945 to 1960 time period.

Today, all day, I had the luxury of spending many hours with nothing else to do but stand in front of these works. It is impossible to get the sense of these paintings from a reproduction in a book, I don't care how advanced the printing process is. To be able to have your nose 12 inches away from the surfaces is a thrilling experience.

I've tried to share that with you here by taking details of the paintings. I think you will be able to see that these women used some paint! Thick, rich layers of every imaginable color. Drips and globs of the stuff. These were not timid women. They had something to say. They were expressionists!