Sunday, April 28, 2013

Woman with Spots 2010

Part of moving forward as an artist is trying things out you haven't done before.  I've always loved the layering of images, and in fact, my whole career has pretty much been based on the layering of paint with photos, or, conversely, photos with paint.  In 2010 I began experimenting with digital transparencies which allowed the paint to read through the photographic image.  It was very exciting, and there were lots of technical obstacles to overcome. That's part of the fun, but also part of the misery(I think I've mentioned in another blog about not being able to make more than a little "O" shape with my mouth for quite some time because of  serious jaw clenching during this time of "exploration").

Woman with Spots was one of the first pieces that I did incorporating the photographic transparency with the paint underneath.  The face is me from my thirties.  I was trying out a facial cream which involved putting white mud like stuff on my face, letting it dry, and then washing it off.  I couldn't tell the difference from before and after, but I liked the way my face looked with the white on it. It was a strong piece, but there was something that wasn't quite interesting enough because of  the straight, unaltered photo.  In the end,  I painted over it, and now all that exists is this digital record  on my hard drive.  **

**I came back to this panel, was able to remove the paint and resurrect the image.  It now hangs in the home of my good friend, Colleen Schwend, and I'm glad I pulled it back into the world.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Girl with Horse and Heart 1980

I recently sent off over 500 slides to Scancafe, a place that scans your old photographic media and transfers it to a digital file. I had a wonderful time transferring the images onto my hard drive, looking at each image as I decided what folder to put it in. There were pictures of my husband and I in our bad 80's clothes with bad 80's hairdos, but still looking so very young and wrinkle free.  There were pictures of our daughters, tiny beings riding around in baby carriers on our backs, and pictures of friends with (lots of)jet black hair. There were studio shots of all my different studios from the different places we had lived, including one from the Zuni Reservation with a little heifer in the front yard.  And then there were over seven years worth of my images that I had never gotten around to putting onto my computer, almost everything from before 1987.

I loved finding this image, a self portrait.  The photo is off me during a hike into Havisu Canyon in Arizona.  The technique is oil paint over a gelatin silver print (8"x10" since I was still experimenting with this new way of working), and it pleases me to see my creative self beginning to understand all that I could do by marrying  paint and photograph, still completely unexplored ground for me back in 1980. The image has a rich, beautiful quality that only oil paint can give, and an innocence that could only have come from still being so young in my life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Couple in Love 2006

This painting is a love story, but one with a sad ending.  When this couple was young, they lived in India, and came together as the result of an arranged marriage.  They subsequently moved to the United States, had two children, and worked, both successful professionals, well loved in the community.  He was outgoing, fearless, and knew and helped a wide range of people because of his profession.  He was a great one for practical jokes, and loved telling the story of accidentally super gluing his hand to the steering wheel of his car as he drove to work one morning.  She was quiet, but extremely capable, and, we all knew, the one that worked behind the scenes to make everything right.  She loved laughing at his silly jokes and pranks.

They raised their children, created a beautiful home, and seemed  in love, giving credit to the very foreign idea, to us, of making a relationship work that wasn't initially based on love.  Then the bad news:  he was diagnosed with  cancer.  At first it looked good, surgery and chemo, and he seemed to be recovering.  We sighed with relief. A few years went by, all was good, their son married and had two beautiful grandchildren, but then, the cancer came back.  All that could be done was done, but, too late.  The cancer spread, and after a period of time, he died.  She was left a widow, bearing her loss with great dignity and respect.  We mourned for both of them.

Her body is made up of a beautiful tree house he had built on their property for their children.  His body is made up of sticks and twigs, dried and broken, and rusted spring coils--all metaphors for the cancer.  When I did the piece, I wasn't aware of where I was going, just that I was building the image using what I had at hand.  When I was finished, looking at it, I suddenly realized what I had done: all the way from the pink of the woman and the blue of the man--I had made a portrait that was a snapshot in time, of their love, of his condition, and of her being the one that housed the relationship.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mother and Daughter with Birds Leaving 2006

When I teach my paint to collage workshops, one of the things I always try to bring up is the appropriation of other people's material, specifically photographic images taken from magazines or books.  Legally, there are rules about copyright infringement and what percentage of taking something of someone else's image is illegal, but that's not really what I want to convey to my students.  One of my students said it best, "I would just be really pissed if I walked into a room and there on the wall was one of my pictures that someone had stolen and stuck in their collage".  I always tell my students that the more the source material for their collages is their own, the better it is, both in terms of authenticity and, morals; not depending solely on someone else's creativity.  Through the course of the workshop I will often have to remind certain students of what we have been talking about because they don't seem to have a clear sense of just how much they are pilfering  someone else's image.

That being said, I have to look at my own images and hope that I stay on the side not of stealing but, instead, of marrying diverse images to make something completely new and original.  I'm hoping that Rembrandt, were he to walk into the room which held Mother with Daughter and Birds Leaving would, in seeing the head of Agatha Bas that he had painted so many years ago, not be angry at me.  Instead I hope that he would  be intrigued in seeing how I had used Angela's head to tell a story about a mother who is about to lose her daughter to the outside world.  He would understand that the birds spoke of the eventual freedom of the girl, but he would also see the snake-like figure at the top, and would know that as well as freedom there was also implied danger.  He would see the pride, but also the sorrow, that the mother feels. He would see that, in so beautifully capturing the face of Angela Bas, he gave me the perfect mother to tell this story.