A new series is being born, right now, this minute, and its genesis is very interesting, I think. It springs from the roots of my early work as an abstract painter, my current day work, mixed together with the life I’m living on this land, and my profound connection to it.
Bill and Margaret Franke, the owners of Hand Artes Gallery here in Truchas, the gallery that represents me (see previous posts Disparate Pieces, Season Opener and Why do Artists Create?), came over for dinner a few weeks ago. Bill and I spent some time in the studio and he was particularly taken with several canvases I thought were still very much in process. He encouraged me to consider finishing them without doing a whole lot more to them. He liked them the way they were. Anna (see previous post The Old Adobe Church, the Wolf and Survival) had also seen them and mentioned liking them as they were.
So I spent some time with them, struggling with concern about whether or not they were “enough.” And a light went on in my head: When I first began painting abstracts, after many years of painting realistically, I absolutely loved the canvases at this stage—after several layers of plaster and base-coating, I would rub pigment into them (something I haven’t done for years now–until these recent pieces Bill responded to). I was always transfixed by how the color played with the texture, bringing the pieces to life. And I liked them exactly as they were but I feared they weren’t “enough,” so I would put a lot more work on top of them—just as I was about to do with these.
And suddenly I realized this is what I’ve wanted to create for years! This is a big part of what tickles my artist’s soul, I’ve just resisted it, thinking it wasn’t, somehow, enough. But it is. It takes restraint to know when to stop; to know when enough is enough and to just let it be.
So I developed those pieces Anna and Bill liked, with respect for the purity of their simplicity and there was something very satisfying about doing that.
As I thought about these finished paintings while out walking (a time and place I find fruitful for inspiration), I remembered I used to mix a beautiful rust/brown as the basis for most of those earlier pieces. I wanted to go back to that. I felt it somehow represented the land here, more specifically, the rock.
I called Bill to share this with him because I was so excited. He was excited too and, in talking back and forth, he brought up our micaceous soil that local Indians have been using for a thousand years in their pottery (see previous post All That Glitters). The Spanish used it as well over the last couple of centuries in the plaster finish on the mud walls of their homes. We discussed how my work was becoming more and more about living on this land and respecting the heritage of those who went before. Adding mica to my pieces was the next logical (soulful) thing to do!
So Bill reached Isabro Ortega (see previous post Isabro Ortega, Master Carver) and asked if he might be willing to get some mica for me. As it happened, he’d just gathered and sifted some for his own use, so he headed right over to Bill’s with a large container of Truchas mica for me. He calls it tierra amarilla, or yellow dirt, because it glitters like gold in the sun.
Indians and locals have their sites where this mica-rich clay and dirt has been gathered, over the centuries, that are almost sacred. It’s not information they share. It’s handed down through the generations. So this big Folger’s container full of Truchas mica, tierra amarilla, is priceless. The only way to obtain it is from someone with such heritage. Not only is it an honor to receive the mica, but in a way I find hard to describe, I feel the gift of it holds deeper meaning. It means I am of this village. I am accepted. I am home.
I mixed my pigments with a micaceous pot my friend had made sitting nearby, to act as a color guide, and I sprinkled the mica in.
My friend, Craig Scogin, came over to video this day because it is momentous. Today my Micaceous Series finally came into being after, literally, years.
I particularly wanted to share this non-linear journey with you because it is so often how our art gets born, and a lot of people don’t know that. Art takes time and it will reveal itself in layer after layer. It often takes being in the dark for a long time before that light goes on.
In offering this to you, it is my hope you’ll be inspired, as I was by Bill and Anna, and supported, as I was not only by them, but by Craig and Margaret as well. We artists need to stick together and tell each other our birthing stories. We can never know what might touch off the next flight of fancy that’s actually been lying within, just waiting to be set free.
And hold onto your hats: next I may be putting straw into the pieces!
Love to you all and happy creating!