This is the fourth in a series of posts taking you back through a history of my work, from its very realistic roots and on to my abstracts (see previous posts Why Aren’t My Paintings PRETTY For God’s Sake , So You Think Artists Are Lazy? and Stripped Down and Broken Open: Giving Birth to Art).
Of Transitions and the Place Between
Having painted relentlessly for two solid years of my life, creating the show Changing the Way We See, I took some time off to teach solely and make friends with the desert. Some new acquaintances, jewelers, knew it inside and out and took me, over the period of a summer, to old pioneer dump sites where we found the broken remains of very old plates, glassware, pottery, bottles… They also took me to a crystal mine, and to two separate mountains of jasper, as well as a truly special place where blue topaz crystals seemed to grow right out of the desert’s red sand. Oh my, the little girl rock hound in me was in heaven. Time would stand still when climbing down a steep slope, buckets laden with gorgeous stone I never could have imagined finding when I was a child. In fact I was living my young girl’s dream come true.
It makes sense that these treasures would find their way into my work once I started painting again. This is the first found object glass piece I did, using mastic to adhere the broken bits of plates and pottery to the canvas, leaving the figures flat. I hadn’t, yet, started to include stone.
In this second piece, I added large pieces of selenite crystal along with the old plates and glass, again leaving the figure flat, finishing it with paint. I’d found the crystal in the desert. Can you imagine coming upon this stunningly bright stone sticking up out of the red sand, catching the light? It was an experience I’ll never forget, like finding hunks of crystal left by whimsical fairies, planted there for the sheer delight and beauty of it.
And, of course, the next logical step was to plaster the figure, giving it dimension.
This was my final and, I think, most successful found object piece. You can’t see it very well in the photograph, but I used a lot of gem quality jasper in it. In fact I had a rock hammer made by a local blacksmith, a very old guy, and split the larger hunks of stone in my back yard, wearing my prescription snorkel mask to protect my eyes. I was quite a sight!
At the same time I began experimenting with abstracted shapes and thicker paint. My pallet started to tone down as well, adding some neutral creams to the brighter pallet I’d been using. I see this as a reflection of my own interior “cooling down.” So much of the emotional work I’d been doing was settling in to me. The fire of intense loss I’d experienced was dying down to banked embers. I’d found my way to acceptance, forgiveness and unconditional love and my work was the physical evidence of that.
I remember painting this piece. It was such a leap to transform what was my kitchen into these shapes and colors. I particularly love the lines of yellow forming a rectangle in the upper center of the piece. I titled this The Good Birthday.
I think you can tell how new this all was to me–what an experiment I’d embarked on. It was rather scary leaving the style and process of painting I knew so well behind–a style I was known for I might add. But, just as I seemed to be leaving the “known me” behind, my work had to follow. It was definitely a fiercely transitional time–a time of new work/new life being born that wasn’t completely evident yet. Although still very self-conscious, the abstract artist in me was awaking.
I always felt this was the most successful piece from this short series. I called it The Blue Door.
And, after that, the two new concepts merged. I added the plaster from the found object pieces into my paintings and the process I’m still using today, albeit it differently, was born.
I had embarked on a time of profound discovery and closure that I never would have chosen if given the choice, so I wasn’t given one. A birthing that necessitated pain, as all birth does, was taking place and I was in it. I was coming into ME. And my paintings reflected all of it–the growth, the pain and the confusion.
I’d come to truly love the small, rural, town I’d moved to, the one so unfamiliar when I first arrived. I loved it for its red dirt roads, homesteader fences, and horses in vast pastures, the fields that were planted in hay and harvested four times a year–and for its wealth of “raw”ancient sites. This is what I called the many sites my dog and I would traverse day after day, week after week–meaning they weren’t excavated or charted by archeologists. No park system was limiting their access. There were simply too many sites in Utah for these to be bothered with. So I explored them with utter abandon and deep delight.
But the town was changing. Much of what I loved about the place was disappearing–the red dirt roads and the homesteader fences, certainly the livestock. And although I’d done a lot of healing and letting go, there were finally too many “ghosts” lingering there. I knew it was time to go.
So I started looking for a home to buy beyond the canyon, up on the mountain. But when a friend learned I’d never been to New Mexico and I thought Santa Fe was a western art town, she recommended a road trip before I made any decisions about a move. She’d been to Truchas six years before, so we booked a casita at a B&B in the village.
This is the painting I was working on when we left. I’d filled in the entire abstracted background, which was so much fun, but had left all the figures blank, to be painted on my return.
As I drove, I day dreamed about that piece. The truth was that I dreaded the meticulous figurative work I’d have to do to complete it–and right there in the car, on my way to Truchas, New Mexico for the first time, I had something of an epiphany: what if I made paintings WITHOUT figures?
In Monday’s post I’ll tell you about that life-changing visit and show you the first Truchas inspired works…
Love to you all,