Not a Still Life Painter Anymore
Summer in New York:
New Work (May 2019)
At the end of my first six months of living solo during a Maine winter – following a long-term marriage – I moved out of two fabulous family homes – with studios to die for. My new start began in Annapolis, MD, during the first week of May 2018. While settling into a new town; with lots of help, love, and fun from two friends that I grew up with in SD – who are more like family than friends – I committed myself to the stages of a healing process.
When I recovered enough to know that I needed to get back to work, I began honing my senses in a search for objects from my new surroundings that would speak to me about visual tags to this beautiful place! I was looking for something visually compelling with an interesting story to tell; that’s ALWAYS the first step of my practice for beginning a new still life painting. Nothing spoke to me; there was no visual narrative emanating from anything – all objects were completely quiet!
The silence was appalling for this still life painter because an all-important objective awareness is necessary for painting a depth of presence with my subject matter. It’s also an essential element of connection that I need to make with objects that I will spend untold hours scrutinizing, interpreting and giving a visual voice – in the context of still life, that could be my full-time work for months, even years! I’ve always had more objects like that than years of life left to paint them all! It simply wasn’t happening with a new version of myself – or as a dear artist friend said, “change your head, change your heart – and your art changes.”
I stopped looking for objects and started thinking about the things I’d learned from years of detailed communion with living specimens, and also what man-made objects can say about mankind. There was so much visual information compelling enough to hold my attention and a sense of awe – inspired by the botanical siren call from life that needs to make other life forms sexually complicit in order to procreate! Whether it is an ant, a bee, bird or mammal, who is helplessly attracted to a delicious substance that can be eaten and carried elsewhere, or sticks to their bodies and be delivered to another flower, or another part of the same blossom waiting for fertilization to happen. It can also be intense color or directional graphic designs that evolved to attract specific birds or mammals to obtain their sustenance and form symbiotic relationships.
After painting botanical specimens for a few years, I realized – with deep respect – that there’s NOTHING superfluous about flowers – everything about their existence is perfectly honed for the task of procreation – life itself! Every beautiful element of the flowers that we all love – is a sexual element. That part of the story is still working for me in another forum.
I had been working directly from life, but now I’ve made a huge departure by taking my inspiration from the inventions of my own imagination. Informed by years of botanical scrutinization, I am repurposing parts of my own paintings of botanical elements, elaborating on the sexual functioning of the individual plant parts. Understanding of how fertilization happens – often with both male and female components existing on a single stem – and adding my imagination to the visual narrative with humanoid elements, I am creating chimeras.
Watch This Space.