Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On the Easel: No. 46 Work in Progress

No. 26 (Oil on Canvas, 24" x 24")

When I was young I wanted to be a musician. I have notebooks filled with songs and poetry going back to second grade. They are terribly embarrassing to look back through. Some time along the way, however, I stopped writing. There was no delineating moment - it just simply slipped away. In conversation with my boyfriend about my blog and the hours I spend agonizing over it, Avery asked why my posts were never as long as their handwritten counterparts. I replied "I could never be that honest. That's why I couldn't be a musician." I didn't have to think about the words - they just jumped from my mouth, momentarily stunning me with their honesty.

That line stuck in my head for a while, and I started thinking about my paintings. Painting has been a way for me to discuss unpleasant themes without it feeling like such emotional masturbation, the way my writing always had. John Hull, one of my professors, said that abstraction can be the subject matter of a painting, or abstraction can be the mantle through which subject matter is discussed. I loved this idea and it has certainly been formative to my paintings. My landscapes continually further themselves from reality.

However, some people misunderstand my work. "It's a landscape, right?" they ask, "and its... blue." Yes, thank you. My four year old niece can do better than that. They stand there for a moment, a giant question mark on their face, then they give up, "I don't get it," and walk away. I am left disheartened. Yet, when I respond as directly and matter-of-factually as possible that my works are nonrepresentational, emotionally driven landscapes, they look at me like I have three heads. How do I tell a stranger, or my family for that matter, that my paintings are about loneliness and isolation, both self and socially imposed, and the tension between their co-existing positive and negative connotations? They're going to think I need anti-depressants!

I do not wish to be emotionally verbose or visually obvious (it's not like I'm painting pictures of a man, alone on a chair in an empty room). I've spent so much time learning how to explicitly not say whats on my mind, but to instead hint and allude to it. There is a subtlety in painting this way that is now paramount to my work. It would seem that I have to be explicit, if not emotionally self deprecating, to be understood even though I've shied away from doing so - shied away from being "that honest" for years.  

Map of Antarctica
In other news, a couple weeks ago I was invited to join the Etsy Team, House of Art & Design, an invitation only Etsy Team whose express intention is to "transform public perception of real ART&DESIGN on Etsy." The members of this Team exude  a wonderful professionalism. I am proud to be counted among them. Due to my new found association with the Team, my watercolors have been featured in twelve Treasuries in the last few days. (Boggles my mind!) Thank goodness for Etsy's new Activity Feed feature, without it I'd only known of 4 of these.

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