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I started my painting life as a traditional watercolorist. I had been exposed to the work of Andrew Wyeth in high school, and it was that moment that I wanted to be a painter. I lived in Michigan at the time and his work with his stark neutral palette and the equally stark rural landscape was very familiar, especially in the winter. I managed to talk my parents into art school and while there, I was trained very traditionally in the figure and still life. I learned to draw. After graduating, I painted in a realistic manner for many years. Then, I decided it was time to go after my MFA. I had recently relocated to southern California and the Art Center in Pasadena was very similar to where I had gotten my BFA, so I started taking classes, from one professor in particular, Mary Winterfield. She had studied at the Art Students League in New York City and with Henry Hensche in Provincetown. It was her influence that sent me into the realm of abstraction where I have been since. Recently, I attended a Master Class and residency at Montreat, North Carolina, with Steve Aimone, where I was introduced to a new kind of abstraction I resonated with. I learned a solid definition of the difference between abstraction and non-objective work that made me see that I was longing to head off in new directions.
Non objective work is where I am now concentrating my attention. I have always struggled to find a way to describe how I painted, and usually found myself trying to make sense of my work in a way that I could label and catalog what I was attempting to do. That included naming the pieces. I would search to find something in the work that I could give a descriptive name to. How impossible is that, when what you are painting isn't coming from a place of concrete real world images, however abstracted?
My inspiration comes from the body itself, the arm, the elbow, the back of the neck and myriad other impulses that arise in ones physical self. I had a professor in school, that said to me, "Obviously, you can paint, and obviously you have a good mind. Now we need to get the mind out of the way." For the first time, I actually understand what he meant. I feel as though I have been untethered. And I am excited being at the beginning of a new phase in my work.
In my world, painting is communication, painting is a dance, and painting is a spiritual practice. I studied the book by philosopher George Santayana, from his series “A Life of Reason”. Book four is called “ A Life of Reason in Art” where he speaks about the creative moment and what is art and what is craft. It is in the impulse to create where the truth lies. After that it becomes craft, learning to use the tools we have at hand, or can make, to turn our impulses into something. Another influence regarding this came from a French movie, “ Tout le matin du Monde” translated as “ All the mornings of the World”. It was in this movie, placed in the 17th Century, where a composer found the truth in his creativity. He was able to bridge the gap between himself and the spiritual world, in the person of his dead wife, who would come to be with him while he played. Once he had reached that place in his art, he never wrote down another piece of music. He used his impulse and his music to connect and that was the be all to end all for him. This movie spoke to the fact that his work was a spiritual practice, as would be yoga, or meditation or any other practice that takes us out of ourselves.
Lofty, you might say. I guess that describes me and my seeking through painting. Who knows where it will lead. Having been raised by a business man, who spent his life seeking his own enlightenment while he raised four children and ran a business, did teach me that the two worlds are not incompatible. It is interesting going through the transition. Some may think it to be a simple change of tactic. I find it excruciating. Letting go of the mind and putting my attention on an impulse, rather than a directed thought, goal, or a teacher’s words, is not natural to me having been raised in traditional western education methods. However, I see incremental moves and changes that happen day to day. I am committed to following this new direction as I believe it just might lead to enlightenment. .
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