Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cut From the Same Cloth

And another memory from the memory jar offered up by a viewer at one of my shows.  As you will recall I've asked people to contribute memories they shared with someone who lost memory.  This memory read ...

I reminded my mother about our first trip to the greenhouse at Mount Holyoke College when I was two years old and she wore the plaid coat she had made me out of extra cloth leftover from the one she had made for herself. 

What I liked about this memory was its visual nature, but also the way in which something from her mother is repeated in her. 

To begin this painting I did some searching online for images of both this greenhouse and others to capture the sense of profusion of greenery and the latticework of the ceiling.  I ended up with the painting above.

I had actually contemplated several ways to approach this image.  The challenge with any painting is just as we explore one option we close off others.  The first mark we make on a blank canvas takes us one direction, rather than another.  As someone who has always liked to keep my options open and resisted being boxed in, I especially struggle with that.  It dawned on me recently that while I can't easily make the same painting serve multiple options, I can explore them independently.  Nothing but myself boxes me in.  After all Monet didn't feel he could only do one take on the Rouen Cathedral or the haystacks.

The other box I fight is the representational one.  When I tell a story, I want the viewer to get it.  While non-representational images often attract me, they seldom communicate a story clearly. I am a feet on the ground person.  That is something that makes me well prepared for shows and talks, but that I struggle with in creating artwork.   I need to get to a place of experimentation that takes me beyond what lies in front of me.  There was a time that I worked from reflections or took pictures through fish tanks in Chinese restaurants for source material, merging tables and fish into one whole.  These are vehicles to force a feet on the ground personality to play.  I've come to realize that I was never very good at playing.  What we don't learn in childhood we revisit in adulthood.

I've hit on a new approach and I'm interested to see how it works.  I decided that I should first go with my natural instinct to paint these stories as I first respond to them, get it out of the way so I can begin to play.  That is in fact a long tradition among artists. So I don't fight my nature, but consider it a step along the road of a longer process.  The approach of taking a sentence or two from someone else and constructing a painting out of it is already a bit of an experiment.

After an initial painting of each memory, I plan to tackle each painting from a different vantage point, literally. The original greenhouse painting placed me within the greenhouse.  What if I create the viewpoint from outside and let the glass steam up?  A misty, scene presents itself.  Then I take my finger and write in the steamed glass, "Cut from the same cloth".  The parts that fall within the letters are sharper, little glimpses within.  I took a first run at it and came up with this initial result. I already have some ideas for the other paintings in this series.  While it is part of my larger memory series, I can imagine exhibiting it by itself titled From Another Vantage Point.  Hmm, perhaps a bit ahead of to paint.

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