December 21, 2014

The Art of Becoming

This is the eighth 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?, Stripped Down and Broken Open: Giving Birth to Art , Of Transitions and the Place Between, An Uncomfortable But Compelling Push-Pull, New Mexico Isn’t for Sissies and The Dark Horse Series). This exploration was spurred on by a reader’s question about my process and inspiration, particularly of my New Mexico horse abstracts. Little did she or I know what her simple query was about to open. I hope you all are enjoying this art journey into the past as much as I am. It is showing me, for the first time, the trajectory of my work, and is going a long way toward pointing me to future paintings.

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The Art of Becoming

After painting The Dark Horse Series, I started to expand my field of vision, away from the llano and the horses, away from the front pastures. I cast my eyes, instead, to the land that backs up my property. I found, there, a wonderful, old, dirt road that was virtually never used. It became my personal hiking trail. Simple paradise. You’ve all seen photos of it before, but here it is anyway:

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To the north of the road were open fields and pastureland…

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… with its old fences…

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… and stone…

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… to the south, the land grant and the canyon…

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… the forest…

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I spent untold hours walking this road, in silence so pure I heard ravens’ wings cutting through the air above me. There were many times and days that it seemed THIS was why I was guided to my particular piece of land. THIS is why I came to Truchas. It was here, in the depth of this old forest, high up on the mountainside, where I accepted that no one–no dark knight–was coming to live my life for me. I was my own, to love and to cherish until death us do part. This is where and how I began a deep communion with the land, with place, with self.

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There were days I felt so much, out on that land grant path, that I would sing into the silence, across the deep arroyos, spilling eddies into the canyon. It was my own kind of howling at the moon. And I danced out there, too, to those rhythms that seemed to well up from my heart. And there were times I would simply laugh out loud, shaking my head in wonder, bent over at the waist or arms stretched out to the sky, in appreciation of the phenomenal gift being given and the discovery it was engendering …

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This new exploration, naturally, moved me into another period of transition in my work. As I deepened, as my time on the land became an essential part of me, I started making paintings unlike anything I’d ever done before.

This painting is titled Sing…

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… this is Dance...

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… and a cool shot by my good friend, Kevin Hulett, of me painting Dance…

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Walk

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Laugh

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… and finally Love… because I was absolutely filled with love even on the dark days–of place, of life, and, yes, of self. I felt more alive during this period, and in the moments of painting these pieces, than I remembered ever feeling before. True, this was the kind of euphoria we all feel when we are falling in love. I was falling in love and my work showed it.

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Sometimes, as artists, we make one piece that doesn’t exactly fit with any other, that stands on its own. I think these pieces are the true transitions. Bluebirds, below, was one of these, inspired by living with bluebirds for the first time in my life–little finch-sized blazes of cobalt blue lyrically looping and flitting across the marshland at the foot of my road…

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… as was Black and Blue, perhaps my own version of Edvard Munch’s Scream, still one of my personal favorites…

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… and the enigmatic Threshold Struggle, another of my favorites, that moves me through the struggle and on to the other side…

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Apparent or not, these pieces were all born of the land. They illustrate a period of intense soul searching and growth that could only take place in the embrace of this place I had come to trust.

I believe individual pieces like these, the “stand-alones,” move us from where we’ve been, into where we are going, without our ever seeing it. They scratch our itches. They present and answer our questions. They are necessary, I think, to an artist’s growth. They are our explorations that bring us home.

And, lo and behold, this stand-alone, Embracing the Unknown, brings me full circle back to the horses. Ahhhh, the recognizable peace of that…

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All of these paintings helped to pave the way to the next series of horse paintings, the larger body of work that was born of my ongoing relationship with the horses, with the land, and with self. I’ll share those with you on Wednesday. Until then…

Love to you all,
Jeane


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