Here I am in Vancouver, leading a field trip. We've seen the Anthropology Museum at UBC, and the Art Gallery downtown, and had a Chinese tea ceremony and many other interesting things. The parents arranged for a break for me, and what did I do? Sat in a café reading Robinson Jeffers' poetry and embroidering.
The forest reclaims itself, eventually, at a cost. Rather than focus on that idea, which is important but not my primary thought here, I want to talk about our relationship to technology and the wilderness. It's not all dark. Sometimes it's a door in.
The biggest part of art is thinking.
Images pop into my mind all the time. Images of childhood trauma (though thankfully, those are fading with therapy and time), images of my day and my loves. Sometimes one seems very strong and I know I'll paint it.
I think some artists paint the images that enter their mind and find the meaning in the image itself. Or, in what I think is a similar process, they find the image on the canvas as they manipulate color and design.
I do that a little, but ideas for me trump images. Why am I attracted to this over that? Is there some life metaphor that it illustrates?
The answer is always yes. Maybe the yes comes after-the-fact, maybe my life metaphors are so strong they hijack anything neutral to their ends.
But that's the point, isn't it? And that point itself is where I want to concentrate in the next pieces. As a human, I carry with me a particular set of ways of making sense of what is essentially a neutral set of quarks and forces surrounding me. That I choose to call them butterflies or betrayal or disease or delight is because of my storytelling, my ability to make metaphor. How does that process work? I don't know. I have been trying to sabotage it to see what happens in the breaking of it, hence my recent watercolor series. And I've been trying to create it to see what happens in the making of it, hence the paintings that border on illustration.
While visiting Camilla, I played with her Genuine watercolors from Daniel Smith. I held the paper up to the blurry indoor shadows of her houseplants, traced as best I could, and splooshed. There is something about how images are filtered from "reality" through the eye through the brush through the computer screen that I find worthy of exploration.
A few years ago, Camilla and I went to Paris for a month of art and visiting friends. For a few days, we had a high fever and cough. As soon as we could hide the symptoms, we tottered out, willy-nilly, to see Paris some more (and infect people). I clearly remember the mile-long walk to the Natural History Museum and park where Camilla stayed outside, coughing, and I went in to see hundreds of exotic butterflies in cases. I was especially drawn to the idea of the interplay of reality and unreality. I was feverish, and there they were, pinned invisibly in rows, reflecting against the glass so that it was sometimes hard to tell which was butterfly and which image of butterfly and which my own mind.
I started this picture a few years ago. A wild apple tree was in the middle of a drippy autumn forest, with modest but edible looking apples. I posed Camilla there, wearing a drab green coat but her signature fancy skirt. I seem to keep coming back to the theme of apples in a wild Eden.
After an intense month going to art museums, it was finally clear how to finish this painting. So, I did.