This painting is part of a meditative abstract series on the links between worlds. I’ve always found it fascinating how much of our lives are lived in fantasy, dream, reading, and contemplation. These are whole worlds that float beneath us. I wanted to paint the notion of a thin “skin” of organized thought, houses, civilization, geometry, over a beautiful chaos of creative form. Ladders link the worlds, so, that with focus, we can climb up and down from one world to another… ladders without the chutes!
Painting process: I established a horizon line for the three paintings, then started a gold and orange spatter process underneath, working on all three paintings simultaneously. I tried various stages for the top. You can see some of these in October Underworlds. I opted to paint the whole thing rather than adding on the black and white paint compostions I had considered mounting. Then I used areas of intereference paint mixed in with other paints over large areas of the painting, so that they would shift with the shifting light.
I’ve spent little time in Graton, but the painting is currently on loan to Catherine Devriese and Isabelle Proust. That’s mighty fine company, I would say. And I did have a drink at the Underwood with Susan Cornelis last night, resulting in this immortal masterwork of a sketch. Overworld, underworld, Underwood– after my martini and some fun with Susan, watercolors, and ripping up the Underwood menu to collage, the horizons between them seemed to become , delightfully, more permeable.
Tell me, what lies Under your Overworld?
Mythic News: I’m going to Rome this Christmas, and had forgotton that in one version of the Trojan myth, the last of the remaining Trojans fled to found Rome. I don’t know how this fits in with Romulus, Remus, and the Wolf Mom, though. I’ve been feeding my soul with the classical warrior heroes, and only periodically get patriarchal indigestion.
Studio News: my new weekend workshop is called Spontaneous Construction and will be offered in the spring. More soon.
Salamander Winter, acrylic combined media on Fabriano paper, 23″ x 23″, Suzanne Edminster
Last night I closed my open studio after an impromptu party with three muses , one rather hairy, in which the absinthe bottle of La Muse Verte was emptied. Scott, Ed, and I ended up at the Ira Glass show at the Santa Rosa Wells Fargo Center. Ira Glass, a semiotics major made good as creator and host of NPR’s This American Life, spent a long time giving out his trade secrets of storytelling, or story cultivating, or story minding, or whatever it is he does so well.
I felt like I was watching– or rather, hearing, as the show celebrated the audial life of the radio– an alchemist giving out his “secret” recipes for turning lead into gold. Open secrets: everyone can hear them, but only a few can use them. Storytelling, he said, is a semiotic pattern. One thing happens, then another thing happens, then another thing– an Ariadne’s thread out of the labyrinth– and it doesn’t matter a bit what the story is or who’s telling it. At the end there’s a bump, a pause, and a moral. The elements of the story are the abstract bones. If the substructure is strong, any story propels us into the other world. Anyone and anything might work in these stories. And you can tell thousands of them, like Scheherazade. Or Ira Glass.
This reminded me of abstract painting. We move away from the subject, and into bones of pure visual action. The structure of the painting carries us along even without subject matter or explanation. First one painting element happens, then another, then another…. it’s fashionable to avoid the word “narrative” with abstract or non-objective painting. But there’s a story embedded in every piece, if we know how to read it. The composition rocks and rockets us toward meaning.
Glass paced the stage, IPAD in hand glowing like magic tablet of a new Moses, as he expounded on the world’s oldest art form, storytelling. In the story of the painting Salamander Winter, you may find Scott building salamander “houses” in our back yard. We lay down boards on the damp winter ground on purpose to be salamander homes. You can find two kinds of California salamanders in our yard, little wormlike Slender Salamanders and classically newty Arboreals. We encourage them to raise their tiny, slimy, cute babies there, and we lift the check their progress. We identified them through this wonderful site, Identifying California Salamanders.
My Ariadne’s thread is tangling here, so I have to quit. The Open Studios went well. Paintings bumped their way to new homes: I’ve posted one here. My thanks to all who visited and to my collectors. The semiotic form of the blog requires that I ask you a question or two, to encourage socializing. So I have some: did you like my studio? huh? huh? and, hey, did I invent the worst blog title ever, or not? And the moral: Know Thy Salamanders. Do you?
Mythic News: Theseus dumped Ariadne after she saved his sorry self from the Minotaur, but a god (Dionysius) ended up marrying her, so it all worked out. She traded up. The Alchemical Salamanders in my painting go through fire unscathed, faith enduring after earthly passions smolder.
Studio news: the Open Studios were successful. The Barracks Artists, in the old Finley Barracks in Santa Rosa, are emerging from the mist. Guerilla artists in the mist. Come visit me by appointment.
Opening a studio is like cleaning a window into the inner life of the artist. Down the rabbit hole we go!
It’s more intimate than having people into your home, because you give your hospitality to everyone. They can luxuriate in your colors, drink in images, and dine on your line. The public sees the traces of your best effort and your worst nightmares, the deep and superficial. The artist tries to be fully with each question, from sublime to inane, without falling into the pit of sales obsession. It’s quite the wine-and-cheese marathon. Unless your heart is open, it can be nerve-wracking . But when someone really sees your art– and really loves it– there is no greater high.
A few times people have burst into tears in front of one of my paintings. James Elkin explores the phenomena in his Pictures and Tears: People who have cried in front of paintings. The book is a strange and fascinating exploration reactions to art when the eyes in our hearts have opened. Museums used to have nursing stations where patrons overcome by art could recover… I think the Louvre still does. Have you laughed or cried over a piece of art?
Turquoise Window World is a sort of threshold or sill where the everyday table starts to tip over into the extraordinary, like the tables that the spirits move. Strange fruit converse. Flowers march and sprout angels, and a grove of spirits wavers in the background. The painting expands domestic motifs as an un- still life , animated. The turquoise paint, that bright opaque, came from my time living in India, where houses are unabashedly brilliant blue as a Kodachrome sea.
Saltworkstudio and my friends the Barracks Artists are open November 5-6 at 3840 Finley Ave, Santa Rosa, California. Drop by to visit 24 artists in one location. I’ll be painting.
In a Mythic News today, I introduce Jeremy Joan Hewes, Caren Catterall , Mardi Storm, Paula and Cliff Strother, Kathryn Kelsey, Maris Peach, Claudia Rhymes, Monica Lee-Boutz, and Chuni Anello. We will be having a party on Saturday between 4 and 6. All our studios will be open. Join us!
Jeremy Joan Hewes is a dynamic, subtle printmaker, photographer and my friend. In her words: Sometimes you walk into a room and a discover an alluring mystery. That’s how I think of this image of subtle colors, dynamic pattern, and silhouettes, which I made at a recent workshop in Coupeville, Washington. I kept returning to that room as the day wore on and the light changed, each time taking more photographs. Color and light, with a little bit of “what is this?” thrown in. Come see this photograph and some new mixed media pieces in studio 250 at the Barracks Artists open studio on November 5 and 6 – this weekend!
Don’t be fooled by Claudia Rhymes’pixie glasses or shy demeanor. Her new series of urban landscape grids over bright backgrounds rocks, and she’s a gifted, secret graffiti artist. She also has one of the new, larger downstairs studios. Claudia is our hidden wonderchild in this Open Studio.
Paula and Cliff Strothershare the studio with the most beautiful outlook on the hills. Paula paints in acrylics and Cliff in oils. Visit this newly established studio to enjoy lush landscapes in a room with a view.
Kathryn Kelsey’sfascinating mixed media work changes every year. Dedicated to wild animals, the environment, and indigenous peoples, her textures and materials are a delight. I love her mixed media with dried radishes. She is the Editor of the Barracks Bulletin and writes a blog. Her downstairs studio is filled with the calm green light of nature, one of my favorite places to sit and relax.
Maris Peachis our very own Joseph Cornell. I own a piece she made, the Alchemist’s Arcade. In her words: I tell stories using the flotsam and jetsam of life’s leftovers. Sometimes I begin with an object, sometimes I build from a concept, sometimes I fiddle and nuture a dream memory until it becomes an elaborate narrative. Othertimes the story is sparsly simple or even hidden, revealing itself through the beholder’s eye. Don’t miss her intricate, fascinating workshop and studio.
Monica Lee-Boutzis an energizing force of nature! She paints in watercolor, is an accomplished collage artist, and has had several recent exhibitions. Visit her studio upstairs across from Paula and Cliff.
Chuni is from Madrid, has a new studio downstairs, and absolutely unique mixed pieces using fabric, fiber, and wool.
October is the month where the borders and boundaries between the worlds become a little thinner. I love the lengthening days and cooler weather. Growing up in the Central Valley, October provided the first respite from stifling heat. It’s been a long year… my father passed away in August .
I painted these for my June show, wanting to evoke the flow between the thin crust of overworld and the bulk of the underworld, how we are a skin on a much larger being. I started with spatters and the determination to use interference paints over large areas. In the end, I kept them near the top horizon, where the “city” is. I liked the look of my studies mounted at the top, but wanted these pieces to be all paint and no collage elements.
I’m reading Greek mythology now, realizing that there are many entrances to the world that is not our waking world: a dark lake, a crack in the earth, a dream, or a painting.