In January 1998, I returned to making art for the first time in nearly 40 years.
I have worked hard since my return to painting. Courses have provided me with increased skills, subject and inspiration. I have exhibited regularly since 1999, and in 2000, I received the Jacob Knight Emerging Artist award.
What is my process? I have come to understand that the process of painting is mysterious. It takes several hours of intense work before I know if I have a painting. Then the painting takes over. I listen to it. I know and don’t know what I am doing at the same time. I work in a state of curiosity and wonder. Where will the painting take me? I give myself to it and trust the process and the mystery. I have no fear.
While I find some subjects in the real world of interiors, landscapes, cityscapes, still lifes or portraits, it is not until I start to paint that I know if my subject, imagination and skills will merge and inspire me enough to produce a picture in which some meaning becomes clear. I am always asking: “But what is this painting about?” Meaning is finally conveyed to me in the non-verbal language of emotions: joy, fear, serenity, discomfort or satisfaction. This search for meaning is the same if I look at someone else’s art or my own. Because my search is also an exploration, I tend to work in series.
I am also a poet and notice similarities between the process of painting and writing poetry. If one were to examine poems from my first collection, Gestures of Trees (2000), many references to art would become apparent. There are instances when some paintings have grown from my poems, and poems have come from my paintings. I gathered them into a manuscript that featured reciprocal pairs of paintings and received a 2003 Worcester Cultural Commission-Massachusetts Cultural Council creative arts fellowship. I produced a handmade artist’s book, Reciprocity, in a limited edition of one hundred, featuring twenty-two images and poems from my manuscript, which is available on my web site. A Brush With Words, a collection of art-related poems, is upcoming.
My paintings represent a variety of subjects and techniques. Strong expressive colors, stylized shapes and patterns dominate my work. I remember in the 1950’s, my painting teacher came into class with a “new” medium: acrylic paint! In 1998, when I mixed paints for the first time in nearly 40 years, I cried. Today acrylics, oils, oil sticks, oil pastels, pastels, pencils, transfers and archival inks help me to achieve effects that I want.
When I returned to painting, my influences were apparent: Rouault, Redon, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Degas, Hockney, van Gogh and the painters who influenced them. For example, I painted an homage to van Gogh based on his homage to Millet’ s “La Nuit Etoilée.” Today, their influences may not be as obvious, but they are still there, even as I come into my own as an artist.
Poet John Ashbery said, “Rather than be pure, accept yourself as numerous.” He was talking about his style of mixing various language and tones of voice in his poems. I believe that he is also instructing me in my journey as a painter and poet.