Though I now live in the northeastern US, I have spent time in Arizona and Utah. I see this history pop up in my work from time to time. If you look at my work from my Inkblot Series, you can see the colors if not the wide open expanses and strange rock formations typical of southern Utah - it just came out, an unintended reference that I have not connected until lately. My work is not "landscape" in any typical sense.
Just returned from a visit to Washington, DC to visit my daughter. We visited the Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle, a gem of a small museum that contains many of my favorites. The entry way was flanked by large pieces by three women artists - Joan Mitchell, Joan Snyder, and Nancy Graves. There are some stunning Bonnards and Matisses as well. One of the highlights for me, however, was a visit to the National Zoo. We spent a while viewing the bird section. I had never seen a cassowary, a rhea, or a bustard. The cassowary, with its blue feathered head topped by a dinosaur-ish ridge, lizard legs and feet, was especially intriguing. This guy was about 5.5 feet tall, and I could easily imagine his prehistoric ancestors.
Sometimes you need to talk about your work to someone just to discover what it is you are trying to say. It happened to me twice this week. The first time, I was discussing with my husband my newer series of work inspired by my son's doodles (see post from February 8) and realized that this work relates to the petroglyphs I saw in southern Utah a couple of years ago. The petroglyphs or rock drawings were created by native people several centuries or more in the past, and often the rock's surface has been colored by minerals in the same earthy tones I have been using. I really did not think of the connection until I started describing what he was looking at. The second time, I was talking about this series with a colleague, and she noted that there was a mysterious and earthy quality. I began to describe how the doodles when enlarged became iconic symbols like an alphabet or another language. I realized that I wanted to decipher my son's cryptic (to me) language.
Just finished Geoff Nicholson's book Bedlam Burning, 2001 and found a passage on page 164 that resonated: "... the world consists of zips as well as saints, of lightning as well as peach melba. There's an oscillation between the banal and the numinous; and perhaps the point is that there is no opposition here. Not only can poetry be made out of anything, poetry already exists in everything; there's no such thing as an unsuitable subject for art."
I've been noticing a subtle but sure change in my thinking lately. I seem to be more interested in making a complex statement that might consist of several related pieces and environments, rather than making one-off pictures. I am slowing down in my thoughts and becoming more demanding of myself.
I am continuing the Outsider Series - from the pages and pages of scribbles I found in my son's high school notebooks I was about to trash while trying to clean up his room. He made these little geometric doodles; I am sure he never thought that anyone would ever look at them, let alone try to make art out of them! I scavenged the pages and reproduced them on transparencies so that I could play with projecting them and redrawing them at different sizes and in different relationships. There was something so intriguing to me about the artlessness of the marks, and the fact that, when enlarged, they read as kind of mysterious icons. I have been using these doodles as inspiration for more…
This morning I attended the first meeting of a critique group of 5 other artists from the Bromfield Gallery. We have decided to meet about once a month at a different one of our studios each time, and spend three hours focusing discussion on that person's work.
I had wanted to find a group of artists to do this with for a long time - one of my new year's resolutions was to try to arrange a critique group. It can get quite lonely out there, and between show rejections, and the whole marketing-the-art thing, it can be depressing. Once you leave school, it is difficult to get honest and constructive feedback.
Among many topics, we discussed the scars we all had from art school professors, and how wrong some of them were about what turned out to be "right" for us. One of my favorite books on the subject is James Elkins' "Why Art Cannot Be Taught". If you've ever been to art school, you'll recognize lots including a play by play of a grad student crit…