Monday, March 23, 2015

here to eternity

I posted this (22"x26" framed) recently but here it is with more context. This painting will be in an exhibition opening April 11 at Theo Ganz Studio in Beacon, called dispatches from eternity. Artists were to interpret the title. After I made this piece in January, the curator encouraged me to submit it, suggesting it suited this theme, and I saw this was completely true in its way. I started looking at some of my work more critically as I wrote my accompanying paragraph, and it became part of an ongoing revision of my artist statement. Which, since I haven't posted at all for so long, is almost a fresh piece of writing, even though it has similar content.

My paintings often start with the idea of wanting to describe some moment in time by way of a detail or a memory. I find an object, a sign, a streetscape, and by photographing and later painting it, I am able to place my thoughts in that time for a while. I feel an emotional, appreciative response and also a detachment from an experience I never really had, and must be content to imagine.

When I am not coming across objects and scenes myself, I look for images in old found photographs, in ephemera like ice-cream wrappers and road maps, catalogs and clippings. I may paint them as I see them or I may add or remove elements to find my own perspective. It's not a sentimentality, though I like when my work evokes a viewer's own memories. Painting lets me bring my objects back into the conversation, from one everyday life into another.

This potential for fluidity between past and present, of memory and experience both real and imagined, is my approach to the idea of eternity. It is the sense of time stretching in both directions and back around with no clear meeting place, a continuum along which we map our own stories. This painting of Newburgh is based on a photograph from Newburgh Historical Society's archives, and depicts a bustling lively city in the 1940s or 50s, full of culture and commerce, pedestrians, cars and activity. The photo captures a moment in the city's rich and complicated history, and in making a painting of it now, I want to slow down our observation of it, even to stand at the same corner the long-ago photographer stood. The six panels comprising the piece are like six different perspectives of the scene, and also resemble a window in time through which we can see life happening.

Friday, March 20, 2015

winter keening, spring dreaming

I admit that it's somehow satisfying to hurl frozen-together chunks of wood at the ground to bust them apart, or to kick loose some iced-over pieces of wood that have welded themselves to the pavement. Plus it's easier to drive over muddy dirt roads that have re-frozen rather than sinking oozily into the deep ruts after last week's thaw. Yet after four more days of trudging back and forth with my laden wheelbarrow that has amazingly lasted one more winter, and carrying armloads of wood up steps onto porches and into sheds, I think I'm about ready to hang up my superalls for the season. Will winter relinquish its icy grip and let us uncurl our clenched white fingers, will the mounds of dirty slush finally melt and the frigid air not sting our faces as we hurry, bundled, to our cars.

No, it was not a good day to try on swimsuits.

In its final hours, winter had one more snowfall to release. As ready as I am to shake off the cold part, I didn't mind the snow, one more chance to appreciate the beauty of it. Living 36 winters you know that it will melt quicker than you think and that the spring bulbs are just beneath the earth, far more ready to face the sun than your pale and withered winter skin.

You also know that saying you'll go back to regularly posting to your blog is easier than actually doing so; as much as you enjoy it, there seems to be some resistance. Let spring, a time of renewal, also be a time of renewing such efforts.