21 December 2016

Written on Water

Dark Reflection, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 11x14"

Though I have been working with riverine imagery for several years, last Summer I participated in my first show on the theme- "Montana Water" at Collage Gallery in Bigfork. Paintings in this show revealed my varied interests in these settings.

In a statement for the exhibition I wrote:

In its falling, flowing and flooding, water crosses borders. Essential to all life, it both resource and refuge. We seek it with physical need and sensual pleasure. Water flows in cultural imagination too, as metaphor and site of myth. So water also crosses time. Through these various qualities, as well as the wonders of reflection, water intrigues me as an artist.

Plank, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20"
Freshet I, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 8x10"
Freshet II, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 8x10"
As examples of the mythic allusions I've made through the water, "Leda's Escape" is a revision of the Classical myth in which Zeus takes the form of a swan to accost Leda. "Attendants" (below) relates to the biblical tale to Moses with his sister Miriam and the pharaoh's daughter's handmaiden in attendance to his woven ark. 
Leda's Escape, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 16x20"
Attendants, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 16x10"
A small study: Seeker, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 7x11"

At the riverside one is bound to find water birds. Among the most majestic here in the Rocky Mountain West is the Great Blue Heron. For me these birds embody a sort of fierce patience. I marvel at how still they hold, how closely they watch, even on this most frigid days.

Vigilant, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x16"
Poise, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x20"
I take great pleasure in subordinating the human drama to the presence of other creatures, like a heron or swan in the foreground. However, there is something evocative about a character engaged with water alone that calls me back to the wading scenarios again and again. What must we wade into? What do we find ourselves wallowing in, intentionally or not? The slough as a backwater, or at least a slow moving water way suggests a calm state, but perhaps some stagnancy too.

Slough I, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x10"

Slough II, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 20x10"

08 December 2016

Storied Places

Gleaner, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x20".
Fellow artists, take heart! For many years I applied to the annual Art About Agriculture show hosted by Oregon State University. It seemed a perfect fit given my region and the perennial subjects of my work. But for one reason or another, I never got in. So, you can imagine my delight when I was actually invited to participate in the 34th annual show this year: Agriculture of the American Landscape.

Prodigal, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x40".
The realities of agriculture are of vital interest to me -like everyone concerned with putting wholesome food on the table. As an artist I am intrigued by the ancient and essential collaboration with nature too. In rural places wilderness and civilization meet and intermingle. Human beings strive and thrive with other animals, both wild and domestic. They all live intimately with the Elements, the blessings and vagaries of each season. What's more, agrarian landscapes are storied places. Myths and parable, proverbs and legends continue to unfold in farmland.

Aftermath, 2016. Diptych, graphite & oil on wood panels, each 30x10".
 I take up these allegorical possibilities along with inspiration from the beauty and drama of the vital world. In agricultural settings I find fertile ground to explore both the natural and unnatural forces affecting our lives. Thought fictional, my work is an expression of true wonder in seasonal change, the diversity of living things and the dynamic relationships among us all.

Sow, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x40".

10 September 2016

Dream Work

To continue my 2016 review....

Dreaming a Kindred Spirit, 2015. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
For a contemporary surrealism show, The Last Best Dream, mounted by Radius Gallery in Missoula last February, I had a chance to explore some ideas that have interested me for quite awhile. My concern was with aspiration, our common hopes, rather than my own nighttime dreams, as one might expect in the context of surrealism, past or present.
One creative challenge for me was in employing a diptych format with two distinct perspectives on imagery that remained unified in other formal terms. I portrayed both the dreamer and the dream, one panel symbolically reflecting the sleeper's desire. The longing for close companionship -a sort of mirror image in a friend- was suggested in "Dreaming a Kindred Spirit" above.
The (nearly) universal yearning for a secure and comfortable home  in "Dreaming a Nest".
Dreaming a Nest, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 14x11".
With the plight of refugees and migrants weighing on my mind and heart, "Dreaming Safe Passage", evoked a long ocean journey. But this imagery might also relate to all the ways we travel and seek to reach other sorts of destinations.
Dreaming Safe Passage, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, 7x11 & 17x11".

Dreaming a Full Pantry, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".
The longing for sustenance -if not abundance- was suggested by homegrown, well-preserved food inspired "Dreaming a Full Pantry". 
Dreaming a Green Horizon, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panels, 5x7 & 11x7".

In "Dreaming a Green Horizon" I considered the fertile prospects we hope to provide our youth, the open field that holds promise for all.
I had the pleasure of bringing this imagery into an intaglio printmaking class with Bev Beck Glueckert at Missoula Art Museum. I printed versions of the sleeper and embellished them with visions of "Safe Passage", as well as "Ample Time". Who does not wish for more time day to day or over the course of life to accomplish all that calls?
Dream: Safe Passage, 2015. Monotype with graphite, 11x14".
Dream: Ample Time, 2016. Monotype with graphite, 11x14"
A galloping draft horse reflects the desire for all the strength and energy, the exuberance even, to meet our challenges.
Dreaming Power, 2016. Monotype with graphite, 11x14".
The quest for transcendence took shape as a pair of wings in "Dreaming Flight". 
Dreaming Flight, 2016. Monotype with graphite, 11x14".
I took wing myself, with the invitation to exhibit with surrealists, though I don't count myself among them. This body of work took me to new places in pictorial space, palettes and processes. I am grateful for the opportunity, and the fruits it has born in my ongoing endeavors.

20 August 2016

Shaped by Circumstance

The year so far has been full of distinct professional opportunities. I've participated in shows and collaboratively developed images for a historical book. These various projects and exhibitions have pushed and pulled my sensibilities.

Cover art, Bold Women of Montana by Beth Judy. (Forthcoming from Mountain Press)

For a contemporary Surrealism show I was drawn to working with dreams. 

Dreaming a Kindred Spirit, 2015. Diptych: Graphite & oil on wood panels, each 8x10".

For the annual Art About Agriculture exhibition the imagery of American agricultural fields was in order.

Sow, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 30x40".

And more recently, the Montana Water show presented me with a chance to focus on water and  riparian environments. 

Freshet II, 2016. Graphite & oil on wood panel, 8x10".

While all the work I have done for publications and exhibitions has been authentic, it has also been diverse, perhaps even divergent. More immediate inspirations have sometimes been neglected or delayed in pursuit of work that relates to externally proposed themes. I feel the need to ponder what  self-determined imagery speaks to my current concerns and interests.

I don't regret this "push and pull". It has opened the scope of my visualization. I want that scope to be vast, and such invitations to work with varied themes is part of that expansion. What's more, it seems natural that artistic endeavor is shaped by circumstance, as our daily lives are.

Over the next several weeks, by way of review, I hope to relate what was at the heart of these diverse  series and where they have taken me with the field of vision opening before me now.