Summer at Arches
My featured show opens at Art at the Main Gallery (Salt Lake City) next week. Here's my artist statement for the show:
It all began with a road trip – Washington, DC to Salt Lake City – in mid-December 2012. The slice of world through the car window at 70 mph was gray, rainy-to-snowy, dormant. Click, went the iPhone camera. What could possibly be interesting, let alone beautiful, in the bleak midwinter? Click. Click. Click.
Having just completed a Bachelor of Fine Art program at the University of Utah, I was burned out on figure painting. All I wanted to paint was landscape. Looking at all the reference photos I collected through the car window, sketching out the shapes and values, I soon began to find beauty in the muted colors of ground and trees, geometric lines of barns and houses, patterns on roads and rumble strips, and the chaotic mess of winter decay. “In the Bleak Midwinter” began to take shape in painting after painting.
Then came spring and more road trips – in the Los Angeles area and between Salt Lake City and Washington State. Click. Then, a spring trip to Pennsylvania, where I watched farms and barns fly by on a rainy day. The slice of world outside the car window revealed a not-quite-awakened world of fuzzy buds, chartreuse lawns, plowed fields, punctuated by the structures that hinted at human life inside. Click. Click. By now I couldn’t stop. Photo references grew and so did a new set of paintings – “Early Spring.”
Along came summer, one of the hottest on record. We hit the road again, this time to southern Utah and Colorado, making stops in Arches and Mesa Verde National Parks. Here, at a more leisurely pace, we stopped to take photos. In addition to car-window slices, I snapped great expanses of sun-bleached desert, red rock exclamations on the horizon, purple shadows, and sage brush braving the summer heat. Click. Click. The “Summer” series took shape back in my air-conditioned studio.
There was nothing to do but to finish it all – this love affair with the seasons – before an October exhibit. Current and past trips through winding Utah canyons, full of orange and gold, provided references for fall impressions.
I am easily seduced by the details in what I see when I am in nature. But at 70 mph through a car window, or from fuzzy reference photos, the view often lacks detail. The photos supply only general shapes, colors, and patterns. As an artist, my primary resource is memory and sensory impressions – the cold, heat, rain, blinding sun on snow, messiness of dead leaves, color of new life in spring. I’d much rather render impressions than details.
Most of the paintings in this series are acrylic on paper, panel, or canvas. I work in layers – texturing the surface, laying in color that sets up a problem to be solved, allowing color to drip, adding more texture, drawing on top of paint, covering drawing with more paint, and so on – until the painting feels right. It is a process of construction and deconstruction that is both joyful and challenging. I am in love with art-making materials and processes as much or more than the subject I am painting.
If the continuum between realism and abstraction were laid out along I-80 between somewhere in Pennsylvania and Salt Lake City, I’d say I’m mostly somewhere in Illinois or Iowa. I’m headed in a more abstract direction, maybe Cheyenne eventually.