Posted on Apr 28, 2019 in General

For most of the past year, I’ve been engaged in an entirely new body of work that has absolutely nothing to do with Maine or the landscape, using different supports, a different kind of ground, applying various kinds of paint in a new way, combining elements of figuration, pattern, abstraction, etc. It might seem like a radical change, but I’m really just picking up on threads that I’ve followed on and off for over forty years – and stepping away from the landscape as a visual source. It is a response to last year’s trip to western Russia. The teacher comes when you are ready, as they say.

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with new materials and dug up some old ones (fun, with some disasters along the way – not fun), and breaking many of the “rules” I held to for landscape painting (also fun). There are few things more invigorating than experimentation when you suspect you’re not bringing anything fresh to the work. Painting feels rather mysterious again, unpredictable, and exciting.

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Making a great circle

Posted on Jul 5, 2018 in General

Among the visual influences from my college years that were among the most powerful, and continue now forty years later, are the paintings of Matisse and Russian icons.  I’ve been fortunate to see some amazing Matisse exhibitions over the years, including the fabulous MOMA retrospective 1n 1992.  I’ve taken some classes in icon painting in egg tempera, seen the stray icon here and there in museums, and visited the wonderful Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA.

It took all this time to finally get to the mother lode itself, Russia. My husband and I took a trip this past May to Moscow, towns of the Golden Ring, and St. Petersburg, and I was intoxicated and inundated by the wealth of icons, frescoed churches, Matisses, folk art, medieval architecture,  the collections of French art at the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage, the Hermitage itself . . . for a painter who was looking for a visual jolt to shake her up, this was far more and better than I had imagined, though I’d been imagining this trip for decades.  It was Art Heaven, at least for this painter. I returned with my head stuffed with images.

Now – what to do with them? That is the mystery. I have to humbly allow myself to play, make mistakes, go down wrong roads, experience technical difficulties, have some moments that move me forward, and not have much of an idea what the end result may be.

But if you love art and have a chance to visit Russia, GO.

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Following the thread

Posted on Jul 28, 2017 in General

Over the past couple of years, I’ve found that I’ve become less attached to completing a painting on site. Now, it may be a matter of months until a painting seems resolved, and it takes much more work in the studio, away from the subject. I used to enjoy the challenge of going outdoors and saying what I had to say in one go, with perhaps only a few little tweaks afterwards – a fencing match with nature.  Now it feels more as if I must allow the painting time to tell me what it really wants.  It throws a little line to me, and I must catch it. The moment of closure is more open-ended, and frankly most of the time stopping and saying “it’s done” seems almost arbitrary and is usually because I just want to move on to something else. I have absolutely no idea whether this results in better paintings, but it feels more engaged to me. All of this has happened before over the forty years of my painting life. As I go on, I realize how much and how little I understand painting. Keeps things interesting, which is the point.

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Dropping the sack

Posted on Jan 4, 2017 in General

Self-promotion has never been one of my skills, and I’m a little envious of artists to whom it comes more naturally. I find it difficult to write an artist’s statement, because my paintings ARE my statement as far as I’m concerned. In a time when  lengthy and convoluted verbiage seems to have become almost a requirement for making art as well as writing about it, I fall into the dinosaur category. When I read a hefty socio-political statement of intention that suggests that the artist must be carrying the weight of the world on his/her shoulders upon entering the studio,  I’m reminded of Robert DeNiro lugging that heavy sack full of armor uphill into the rain forest in “The Mission”. Drop it, Bob!

I think visual art (for the most part) is not a particularly effective route to motivating people towards social change.  What is it good for? Another post, perhaps.

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Swiss Alps series

Posted on Apr 25, 2015 in General

Swiss Alps series

For the past six months I’ve been working on a series of paintings of the Alps using studies I made on a trip to Switzerland last August. This is a plan that’s been simmering in my brain since my last trip there twenty years ago and my last exhibit of Swiss landscapes in 1988. Interesting the changes that twenty years bring: a little less energy, a lot more painting experience, and a willingness to trust my own knowledge more and care about the outcome much less.

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Presenting one’s work

Posted on Nov 2, 2009 in General

I recently had a wonderful tour of the Frames Conservation Department at the Tate, where Alastair Johnson explained many of the processes that go into the restoration of antique frames as well as the creation of new frames for museum works. For an overview of how a frame is constructed (I think maybe I always thought maybe they were just extruded, like Play-Doh), take a look at this article.

It did remind me, though, how a really inappropriate frame can detract from a painting, and how a very good one can enhance it. And gold frames do not an Old Master make. Because it’s a pretty ubiquitous contemporary aesthetic, and also for reasons of economy, I’ve always used extremely simple light-colored frames. I wonder: if I really experimented to find exactly what kind of frame might most enhance my work without overpowering it, what would it be? And could I make it myself? Creating a new frame using the techniques of the past looked like a lot of fun. You could do a lot with wood and molding from the lumber store, carpenter’s glue, some clamps, and a miter saw.

It’s often easy to see when something is poorly or inappropriately presented, but studying the painting that is quietly and harmoniously supported by its frame may give some clues about how to best present one’s own work. A big question to ponder.

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