One more painting and my Gustave Mahler Symphony series will be complete. He composed ten in all, so this will be a forced landing for Ms. Inspiration and me. I started the series in January, while finishing the twenty-one piece series to include in my 3-genre manuscript, The little O, the earth. All was right with the world because there was no transition between the two series, just a kind of seamless shift of attention and new materials in the studio.
Mahler Symphony No. 2
The opening quotation sums up how I am feeling right now. It’s the brooding “What’s next?” of an artist, looking for a way to move on after one painting or series into unknown territory.
To assuage my anxiety, I looked at my artwork photo albums from 1998 - 2013 and considered the question: What made me create this painting or invest months in that series? This is some of what I found:
1. Soon after my return to painting, weekly open-ended class assignments provided subjects, such as dreams, emotions, mythology, familiar, new and imaginary landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and life drawing.
2. To prepare for a themed solo or group exhibition, I had many sources of inspiration. For example, the Mahler Symphony series began with the call for artists to exhibit in The Square Show at Gallery Z in Providence, Rhode Island. We were given 3 blank square canvases and challenged to paint/construct a series. Once that ended, I continued because I was enthralled with all ten symphonies.
3. To paint and write the obsession that was Reciprocity, when a poem inspired a painting or a painting inspired a poem, there were over three dozen paintings and an artist’s book by the time the obsession was finished with me (Judy’s Journal, 2007 November).
4. To celebrate two trips to Sicily, I made three paintings. There are also many paintings from trips to Italy and France.
5. To honor favorite artists by painting homages to their work, I made paintings. This started as a class assignment that went on long after the class ended.
6. To explore a new technique, I risk failure until I “get it.” A one-day workshop on Zentangles took me by surprise (Judy’s Journal, 2010 July). The Autobiography series (2011 September) and exhibition grew from that day, and then morphed into the Travel series (2012 April).
7. One source I revisit consistently is music. Only the composers change. Without music, there can be no making art for me. Some paintings take the names of composers or compositions.
8. I make art to make mourning visible. When my friend was ill I began a collage series, Environments, which became a life line. When my brother died, I painted “Springtime” and learned how to make ceramic tiles (Judy’s Journal 2009 May).
9. To paint imaginary towns, I create places where the architecture is my own strange hybrid of seen and unseen forms.
10. To capture the effect of the sun and sky dominating a simple strip of landscape, I made the Sun Effect paintings, the only series so far to sell out. (It was a small series.)
11. Rocks! How could I ever forget my kinship with rocks (Judy’s Journal, 2005 June)?
12. To respond to the news: “September 11, 2001,”“Foreign Policy” (Judy’s Journal, 2008 January), “Survival-After Hurricane Katrina,” “Didn’t You See It Coming? 2008.”
13. To capture the feeling of coming upon a stunning scene in nature, I created the three panel Pulse series.
14. To see how dividing space on canvas according to vertical patterns could work, I made four paintings.
15. Inspired by the shattered pottery mosaics in Gaud í’s Park G üell, Barcelona, I made the Landscape Mosaic series (Judy’s Journal, 2008 August).
16. To answer the destruction of an ice storm, my husband and I collaborated on Landscape Installation (Judy’s Journal, 2009 June).
17. To celebrate the life of a dead fig tree, I painted it. (Judy’s Journal, 2011 July) But, nothing last forever (2013 June).
18. To respond to an MFA/Boston exhibition of Luis Melendez’s paintings, I began a series on fruits, some of them unidentifiable. During another visit, after a close examination of their African art gallery, I painted a series of gods.
Did this fifteen-year look back assuage my anxiety about what’s next? To a point, yes. Recognizing the roots of my work by remembering how it began, I believe that it will happen again. I will stay open to new possibilities that Ms. Inspiration will offer. Invited or uninvited, she will knock on my door when I least expect!