Exploring the cross theme is richer than I imagined. I have yet to leap into creating a large piece on white canvas or paper, but I made a conscious choice to work over existing pieces (which satisfies my desire to re-use/re-purpose) and as I paint, I see how I relate to the underlying piece. Even if I “erase” it, it affects how I chose to develop the the image. And in pushing myself to work with crosses almost exclusively, I’m uncovering my relationship to it, and questioning what I consciously thought about it, while allowing myself to go down all sorts of paths and make all sorts of connections without censorship.

The 3 below were made the other day and are directly related to madonna figures I’ve painted/drawn that include vegetation. They have a solid, earthy quality.

The following are particularly exciting. The 2 on the left were made last week (and I admit they felt close to finished) but I worked into them. This action of “working into” a piece, or working with one image, has been especially hard for me to understand, in large part because my practice has been developing a light, quick and facile style. I’ve spent years developing a spontaneous, authentic line. But that mercurial style belies a restlessness thread in my work as well as my life. The good side of that quality is agility and an ability to adapt, but the flip side is difficulty sticking with, and committing to, a project after the initial bloom wears off.  I’m actually working very directly with that restlessness in daily life. This decision to do a graduate program has upended my life in ways I couldn’t predict, and restlessness is rampant, but just as I’ve made the commitment to be still and pay attention in day-to-day decisions, I’ve also committed to a similar art practice, and it’s finally making sense.

Now for my life to make sense. I actually doubt that “making sense” is even the point… 🙂



Cross Series and Beginning an Oil Painting

I worked in my sketchbook when I first went into my studio, played around with materials then drew the crosses above. This is the kind of line I love, done with a fat graphite pencil for marking lumber. And these crosses are morphing into trees-

I’ve been dancing around the idea of painting on white ground but something keeps bringing me back to working on top of old pieces. The originals below were quite large, done in an Experimental Drawing class with Robert Siegelman at the Museum School several years ago. I ripped up the originals into pieces roughly 20×30.” I liked them though never felt they were strong enough to stand on their own but always felt I wanted to use them as the base for new work. For a long time I thought I’d enhance the images in each piece, create new work based on images already there, but today I drew several of the cross images in white oil stick on three of them. The third image is still in progress and incorporates some of the background but doesn’t refer to it. I’ll work on the other 2 this week. I can see ways I’d like to incorporate shapes, colors etc. from the work beneath into a new piece.

This is the kind of image exploration that fascinates and pulls at me. I feel like I have to do this to get through to the next stage of working on plain canvas.

Today’s milestone– I finally felt comfortable handling oil paint because I understood how to use medium to get the paint to the consistency I wanted. I learned some basics looking at Youtube videos on oil painting. I see how oil glazes impart a luminous quality.


Cross: creating a narrative

I recently read about 2 artists who create installations in abandoned buildings and activate the space with art and narratives. Nothing new about that but for some reason they inspired me to think about creating a narrative about the cross, or a story, or series of poems or chants, or both! One of the composers I often listen to when I paint is Arvo Part, an Estonian who creates sacred music that is utterly original and haunting. I think about including audio in my work as well.

And then, while researching Philip Guston, I again read about his love for the work of Piero Della Francesca. For me, there’s hardly a more glorious painting than Della Francesca’s Madonna del Parto, but Guston had other favorites, including Piero’s Legends of the True Cross (!!). In a church in Arezzo, Italy he painted a fresco cycle narrating the miraculous stories of the True Cross, the cross on which Christ was crucified. Here is a cycle of stories about one of the most famous crosses and even more inspiration to follow through on this idea of creating a narrative.

Madonna del Parto, Piero Della Francesca

Madonna del Parto, Piero Della Francesca

Continuing Crosses

The cross theme is morphing in ways I never suspected. Haven’t done much research but just a little revealed a few symbols that have grown out of this universal symbol: crossroads, tree of life, ladder to heaven and much more. I never imagined I would find it so rich.

These were created on top of older collages. The difference in the making this time is I chose these older images with the idea of wanting to create cross imagery on top of them. I saw a possibility, had an idea, of what I wanted to do. This is different from my usual art practice: approach the page and work without thinking but it still incorporates my spontaneous style, just adds the elements of awareness and intention.

When I stepped back, I saw the possibility of going further with these by creating a painting, totally in oil or acrylic, based on these new images. Exciting!

Glimmers at the End of the Tunnel

Caught myself thinking in the studio and realized thoughts have been running beneath the surface of my mind as I tried to paint the last few days–even though I’d specifically discussed being aware of this with Deb (Todd Wheeler), my advisor. But today I caught myself and finally stopped the thinking and began working. Have been circling canvases, paper, paints, ink etc. all week, worrying about content, medium etc. but today…

Exploring the theme of the cross. Such a rich subject! A symbol connected to so many religions and belief systems.The first 2 in the gallery below were quick gouache sketches. Ah the freedom of ink and watercolor on paper(!!). Then, I turned my attention to re-working 2 pieces. The agnus dei cross is several years old. I worked into it with acrylic, charcoal and oil pastel and it’s still in progress, but I’m most pleased with the last piece. It was originally a clunky acrylic but I painted the lines of the four quadrants with a deep blue–the demarcated areas have a naples yellow glaze. I thinned the oils enough to give me the fluidity I’ve wanted with this medium. I’ve yearned to use oils–to get access to the luscious colors and textures.

Maybe I can really do this.

A Clean Studio and Louise Bourgeois

I really had to do this. That’s what I;m telling myself to feel better about spending almost the entire day organizing materials, clearing space, and buying homosote (coming tomorrow). I can’t wait to get stuff up on the walls, and tack paper and canvas to a vertical surface and work upright rather than on a horizontal drawing table.

Next up: preparing canvases. Dick Blick is having a huge back-to-school sale including their big annual canvas sale. I thought I would buy lots of pre-made canvases but after a discussion with my advisor, I realized I want more control over the surface. I like linen and muslin as supports and I have muslin from past quilt projects. Using my own fabric satisfies the desire to-re-use and re-purpose. I also have innumerable cotton handkerchiefs my mother has sent me over the years. Louise Bourgeois’s works on fabric have long inspired me. I love LB’s fabric treatments but once I decide to work with these handkerchiefs I will probably use them as a base for stitching, ripping and painting.