Art Talk at Community Arts Center
Brandon Long, Program Director at Community Art Center the host for “Horizon: Contemporary Landscape”, invited me to talk about my piece in the exhibit, “Let us do our best, even if it gets us nowhere.” I always say yes because it is the best opportunity to really connect with people who might be hesitant to ask an artist what went into creating something they may not understand. The takeaway is as always that they look at the art in a completely new way, often with wonder.
I am grateful to have been accepted into all the past Horizon shows, and that the theme is Contemporary Landscape. My definition of landscape is pretty broad and includes the inner landscape. I approach a blank paper with little idea other than to illustrate that inner landscape, as residing in the present moment. I am a layerist, meaning I layer meaning through symbol, color, shape as well as layers of marks, botanicals and painted papers.
Organizing my thoughts about how to convey the experience of creating and the description of the journey through that unknown territory deepens my appreciation of my piece, because it seems to create itself, I’m a bystander who supplies the supplies. I travel back through the layers and remember what produced the first strokes.
Before starting “Let us do our best, even if it gets us nowhere.” the inner landscape was cloudy and grey. So I approached the paper with an I don’t care attitude, without editing started with marks and scripts, a universal language in permanent vermilion and blue-violet ink one of which resembled a mountain range. So the thought was sparked that it’s a landscape. My art directs me about it’s nature.
The upper area suggested sky, so I painted blue. I drew a horizon line under the mountain area and colored that mostly green. Being a fan of perspective I drew in the yellow road that vanishes in the mountain.
Then I realized there was also a multi-dimensional thing – you can look down like a map and out across like a landscape. It started feeling like it was worth continuing, I started to care about giving it attention. Henry Miller’s phrase came to mind – “Let us do our best, even if it gets us nowhere.” which became its title. It revealed something important; even though I get discouraged as an artist I will always aspire to go forward to the next destination.
I started adding areas that are always part of my designs like the circle, square, triangle. I started marking spots along the road we would travel to and through. The destination was where my daughter was born so I added something from my son’s birthplace, a Prismacolor colored 1939 map of Washington DC.
Filling in the foreground with water symbols gave it the scope of going coast to coast (nearly) from morn – the sun drawn at the top– till night – stars drawn around, and gold stars for persistence.
I think it is one of my best artworks. It taught me that if I allow myself the freedom to express my truth, it leads me to the next level in my evolution. The enjoyable part is when an audience member says how differently and appreciatively she sees the art now, and asks if I will I write that down for the person who will buy it? Yes.
This is so very interesting, Kathleen-I especially like hearing about that moment when you “start to care”-I can so relate to that. And the title/quote-perfection! Thanks for sharing your process.
Laura, it is my challenge to start when I don’t know what I’m doing (and my ego does not like to admit that) and take it through to the caring sense of direction phase. I’m lucky when I know when it’s complete. In regards the quote; all hail Henry Miller!
I am drawn to writing about my process to comment on how long the path is, how many layers there are to our psyche that want expression.
A lovely description of your artistic journey with this piece. I so enjoy hearing about your process, your being open to the creative spirit. Thanks, Kathleen!
Journey is right, Marilyn! Inner and outer and all around. The joy of it was that in creating it, paint, ink and maps were telling me where I was going toward and from. And where wherever I go, there I am, as they say. As long as an artist paints from being centered in the present moment, it is true.