Saturday, July 22, 2017

Meditation on Somatic Memory 
36"x24" Acrylic on canvas



I've been living with this painting for a few weeks now. I've deemed it finished. I don't see any light or dark places that stop my movement within the painting. And all of the forms that I see change. A couple of days ago, I saw Captain Kangaroo in there. I told myself, "If he's still there tomorrow, he will have to go." But I couldn't find him again.

The process was to lay down a think layer of gesso, not particularly even throughout the canvas, and then to stamp into the gesso. So I used a spiral shaped plastic piece I have, the fax cover that I've used in charcoal drawings and another painting in the past--that's responsible for the marks in the bottom section of the painting. And I used a rectangular tool with the idea to make more architectural representations, buildings maybe. In the end, I put three skewers in my hand, spread unevenly, and dragged them squiggly through random parts of the composition. When I left the painting to let the gesso dry, I could see some of the marks softening into each other. I had mixed feelings about that. And then, after the gesso had dried, there were lots of popped air-bubble holes, and in general, there seemed like a lot of busy-ness at the bottom of the composition. To create that had been my original intention--I wanted a lot to be happening down there--but seeing it? I had mixed feelings.

But I moved forward, confident at this point that I'd resolve any of those issues by working it more. Moving forward meant moving the dark into the low-lying places. I sprayed the painting with my water bottle, getting it really wet, and floated in the perfect grey (black made from the primaries). I was unhappy with splotches of paint that didn't float, but if I tried moving them, that changed what was happening in other unsatisfactory ways. So I walked away to let it dry.

When I came back to the dry painting, I could see where I needed to add more dark and more light and tried working with splotches and air holes. I could see places where some of the red, violet, and very subtle blue-green had pulled out of the perfect grey I had mixed. I made the decision then to have that be my "only" color.

When I started adding more dark in, using my fake chamois, I could see how the paint moved on the gessoed areas and loved the forms that were emerging. That there are human forms for me, quirky animals, creatures from "Labyrinth," the form that changes from elephant head to scary profile to haunch and body of a fearsome cat, ladders to who knows where, collapsing structures, and the occasional Captain Kangaroo make this more meaningful for me. It seems dreamlike and as if I were glimpsing into a lifetime of things experienced, observed, and fancied. It seemed as if the outer wall were carved away or destroyed so that what is revealed is the inner-scape.

Two things then happened to help me understand the painting and make peace with my media. My daughter and I were having a conversation about cellular memory (she said this has nothing to do with your cell phone plan). We were talking about babies and what they recall. Events may not be in their conscious memory but stored in cellular memory--it's our somatic memory. I thought about how I'd been thinking about the bottom part of the painting as cells and veiny kinds of structures. And how some of the forms had made me think about the creatures that live under your bed so that you don't dare stick your foot out of the covers as you sleep--no matter that you live in Phoenix, it's 112 degrees, and you only have evap cooling, you still have to sleep covered up. All that's in the painting. It holds somatic memory. There's places of birthing and of languishing, there are guides and demons, efforts to reach new heights and places of respite from the climb, and the screaming being will forever be a part of this, as will the form that holds their hand out in offering. That's somatic memory. From that came the title.

But I was still cranky about the air holes in the white and the mottled of some of the dark. I went over some air holes with more gesso. But decided that leaving some added to an erosion kind of effect. I evened out some of the mottled grey in the low places. But I still wasn't sure about that effect. Then a friend who was traveling in Ireland posted some pictures of some of the rock formations at Burren National Park. I gasped when seeing her images. She said she had thought of me when she posted the pictures. The aged stones, the grass growing between them, reminded us both of my work. But in the detail of that, what I noticed finally, the rocks were mottled grey! Peace made.

I feel as though everything I've been doing as an artist has led to this painting. I'm excited and, yes, a little scared about what comes next...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Memory Stick 40" x 16"



And it is completed. I decided that the piece needed an archway, perhaps to suggest we are getting a peek into a chasm of time. I wanted the archway to appear to be barely containing the communication process, communication through time, the memory of communication. It's splitting apart, perhaps imploding, hence the fieriness, some charing. The archway is made of a composite paper cup holder from starbuck's. I tore it up into pieces intentionally using the pieces that would stick out from the canvas and the pieces that appeared like a Y (architectural features?). Micaceous Oxide again to make it look stone-like, of the earth.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Working Title: Memory Stick (40 in x 16 in)


This didn't come about just because I had computer parts left. This came about because of my obsession with cave drawings, petroglyphs, and the human need to communicate through a variety of methods. I think that's ultimately why I thought to arrange the computer bits into a shape of glyph.
To make the glyphs, I used a cake-decorating tool. This was the first time for that experiment. I put the gel medium/lightweight vinyl spackling mix in the decorating tool and squeezed and guided it onto the canvas. Fun. It wasn't an even and completely predictable process, which, as always, is a good thing. That made the glyphs more interesting--starting in one direction and ending up somewhere else entirely. Let it go.
I first went over the marks with micaceous oxide. Then I floated in a wash of titan buff mixed with azo gold/quinacridone nickel. Then I went over the marks with the azo gold/quinacridone nickel. Nice and rusty looking. 
I had spent hours in the studio and wasn't sure of my next step. So I stopped to photograph for a friend and reaching for my camera saw some gel medium layers that had dried in the container and I had peeled from the side. I draped them over the circuit board and memory sticks. I think that's where it goes. 
Once attached to the painting, it still won't be finished, but it will be a kismet step closer.

Pathscape (24 in x 12 in)


I had been looking at Asian Landscape Paintings when I came to the studio and started working this canvas. Lately, I seem to be in love with making paintings with fewer colors. This canvas is textured with the gel medium/lightweight vinyl spackling mixture I often use. Just used a spackling tool for application. Once dry, I added perfect grey and spritzed it with water. The red floated out of the grey. I applied a gold paste over the faux lettering in the lower left. I'm pretty sure that holds the key to an efficient use of the pathscape--although, the way seems pretty clear--just a bit ragged in places...Travel well

If Kandinsky had had a Computer (each of the three pieces, made of four stapled on the back, 12 in x 8 in)


Two years ago, I moved to a very small apartment. I no longer had room for items such as an obsolete snowball iMac. So I called the local store: how much to destroy my hard drive and recycle the thing? $90! Oh no. Not I. After being counseled by Gregg Coad, IT extraordinaire, I purchased a tool kit for deconstructing the computer for $20. See how that works? I'm $70 ahead. And I started taking the thing apart. 
Once inside, I saw potential. The screws were so many sizes, the circuit boards were aerial views of cityscapes, there were knobs and magnets, a prism, cd turner knobby thing, copper tape, and things I had no idea about. This ignorance led to only one scary moment when I had to come home and google a warning phrase to see if I was doomed for delving into parts unknown. (I wasn't.) Then Gregg gave me a few items that he had culled from computers he'd had to deconstruct. I started arranging parts on each cluster of canvas. And got a back and neck ache gluing the parts into place. 
At some point in this process, probably before the trip to the chiropractor, I lost my way. What was I doing? How is this art? How is this an expression of my truth? Suddenly, this activity seemed meaningless. So I did what I often do when feeling this way, I started looking at the images in my Kandinsky book. I realized that these shapes had a lot in common with some of the intriguing shapes that Kandinsky had made in his abstract paintings. I had it. The title for the series: If Kandinsky had had a Computer. He'd have taken it apart an used it...maybe...maybe his arrangement would have been more spontaneous than mine. But once I had the title, I could move forward. And truthfully, this is a part of my truth. I look at things and ask, what else is it, how does it relate to the other else thing I'm looking at. How is it part of a different whole. 






When Mark and Helmi Came to Visit (12 in x 36 in)


Part I: I have loved Mark Tobey's white writing since I first saw a photograph of one if his paintings with this element. Before my friend, Margo, moved from Seattle, we went to SAM to see an exhibit of the Northwest Mystical Artists. I studied and studied his work, but left, appropriately, mystified. I so wanted to be able to create using white writing.
Part II: Last summer, when my friends Mary Jane and Grace came to visit, we went to an exhibit at the Lightcatcher of Helmi Juvonan's work. She had been completely in love with Mark Tobey, who she knew, to the point of creating a story about that love. She, too used a white mark-making technique in compositions surrounding in dark. I was still mystified as to technique.
Part III: Answer the question: which comes first, the dark or the light? How does the artist maintain the white marks while moving in the darkness? I did the only thing that, at the time, I could think to do--I called in Mark and Helmi. Then I started playing with a technique I remember that I knew how to do--I could make the light marks rise above the dark. So a used a thick coat of gesso, mixed in the teeniest bit of perfect grey to grey the gesso down a bit. Then I used stamping tools. I had recently acquired the cover to a fax machine and loved the shapes it made. I used the spiral and serpentine arm band Christina had given me, and parts of parts to other equipment that had come my way. The greyed-gesso moved up to fill in the spaces the stamping action made. When it dried, I floated in dark grey. a little violet, a little blue green. I did a little sand-paper scratching and then patina-ed it with azo gold quinacridone nickel. I look forward to many more visits from Mark and Helmi.

Garden Mythologies (each 8 in x 8 in)


This was me playing with a heavy layer of gesso, mark-making tools, and a sanding to bring the light back in and for texturing. It was great fun to discover the effects that sanding the painted surface had on the painting--particularly for restoring the light around the edges--that area that threatened to get too dark for meaning-making. Always the challenge for me when working in a series of three is what color to have predominant and complimentary. I have quit being so thoughtful about it when I begin and have just started diving in and seeing what emerges. Both methods have their issues. So, of course, do I.