Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A semester in review

So, it certainly has been a while. Due to the craziness of senior year, my blog fell to the wayside, sadly neglected and unattended. I've finally made it back home to Colorado and I have some time on my hands. 
Here are some selections from this semester's work, chronologically ordering the projects from most recent to earliest work: 

These first three paintings deal with memory, place, and a sense of home. Our ideas of home come from an accumulation of memories. We see a mountain and remember the colors of the rocks and the angle of the sun, but oddly enough, each of these memories recalls a particular instance that will never occur again. The world is constantly changing, and so are our homes. In a way, home is something you carry with you in memory, separate from the reality of the landscape. When I remember places, I think of the colors first, and so these paintings became semi-abstracted landscapes focusing on color and form, staying true to the identity of the place but amplifying the sense of color.
This is the last piece from this semester. I broke through some barriers on this one; never have I handled color in such an exciting way. This painting is of a backside view of Capital Peak, a 14er that I see every time I drive into Snowmass. It is truly an impressive peak, not only because it is one of the more deadly 14ers, but also because of its sheer walls that stand above the lake in the basin that it forms. The hike to Capital Lake is only 7 miles, but it holds a special importance for me because it was one of my first long hikes when I was younger. I remember being in awe of the enormous mountain when we arrived to the basin below the rock face.  
This painting really gave me a chance to explore the possibilities of abstraction to make a realistic form. This is a painting of the butte that stands above Grand Junction. The butte is the first indication that the mountains are coming as you drive eastward from Utah into Colorado. I had a lot of fun with the sedimentary fins and piles at the base of the butte.
This was the first of these three paintings. This painting represented a major shift in my painting style. Here, I forced myself to work continuously on a painting for an entire month; something I had never done before. I tend to like to work alla prima and to move quickly. This experience gave me a chance to explore a whole new vocabulary of technique. I enjoyed amplifying the colors and creating interesting textures over time. This painting is of the Needles section of Canyonlands.

These next few paintings (and this entire project, really) continue with the idea of home and landscape, but take it one step further. Because we carry our landscapes with us in our memory, they become a part of our identity and our very being. I wanted to draw that out, perhaps to illuminate what landscapes and memories reside inside individual people. 

So, I began to work directly on the skin of particular people. To begin, the subject would bring me a series of photos of a place that they truly felt connection, and as I painted my interpretation of the photos, they would tell me the story of that place. 

The best part about this technique is its transience. None of these works survives for longer than an hour. Just as our memories capture a particular moment in a constantly changing landscape, these paintings are caught by a camera, and then washed off. The painting, just like a memory, only exists as a snapshot, no longer existing outside of documentation.

This is a shot of Matt's back from the side.  There are some difficulties with painting on people. Acrylic paint does not really like skin. It doesn’t adhere well, dries in less than a minute, and cracks horribly. I however, enjoy the experience this creates for me as a painter. Working on skin forces me to make decisions quickly about blending, color, and composition. If I don’t get the paint down quickly, I can’t blend and whole chunks of paint come off on my brush. 

Matt's landscape...a mountain near Independence Pass as the sun goes down.
I wanted to include myself in this project, but painting on myself presented a whole new level of difficulty. In order to do so, I had to use a mirror and a reflected image. This was a difficult process; I had learn how to hold the brush differently, and I had to take the geography of my chest into account. Painting on the chest and breasts is slightly more confusing than painting on a back; there are many more contours.  My landscape is Mount Sopris.
Raya's back....her family's dock in White Lake, New York.
Emily's landscape...Chicago at night.

Another project from this semester was a series collaborative pieces with a friend, Madelyn Sullivan. Madelyn and I decided to work with natural materials to make structures that would foster a sense of community. Additionally, we were working within the concepts of home-building, and this manifested into two projects. 

The first was the Nest. I was interested in the idea of nesting in human terms. Nesting is an economic term, a pre-natal term, and a word to describe the way in which we organize our spaces in order to make them our own. We decided to pair that with the idea of a real nest, and ended up with an enormous bird-like nest that stood for 4 days on the Dudely Coe Quad in the center of campus. 

The second manifestation of the project came in a more functional form. Madelyn had recently taken a primitive living skills course and had learned to make debris shelters. These debris shelters can comfortably protect a person from the elements. They're quite toasty. The shelters stood for less the 24 hours, but they were enjoyed by many. Some people even slept out in them.

In both these projects we aimed to get the greater Bowdoin community involved in order to make the project larger than ourselves. We owe almost all our materials to the wonderful people at Grounds who helped us use the leaves and branches they collect from the campus. We also managed to attract passersby in the work, and we didn't really manage anyone, but rather we let the project take form under many hands. 

Madelyn in a completed shelter, ready for nap time.
Matt and Kirsten in a less functional shelter...this one became more of a fort. Two people could comfortably hang out in this shelter
Shelters in progress
The skeleton of the shelter is much like an overturned boat. The leaves provide insulation above this lattice  work of branches. They are quite sturdy.
People enjoying the leaf piles...our main material.
Completed Nest! I can put process photos of it up later if people are took about 6 hours to build.

The earliest work from the semester was really centered on transience and natural materials.
Here is a single leaf I painted with oil paint. I used blue because it seemed the most surprising color for an autumn leaf. The oil paint was quite resilient...the paint never came off the leaf fully. I noticed people checking this leaf out from time to time. This was an interesting (but failed, I think) project.
This is a leaf mobile I made using sticks and a color gradient of fall leaves. The leaves were then strung on wire and put into a spiral made of sticks. It moved quite nicely in the wind, but was not too ostentatious. This is just one mobile in a series of 4. The other four didn't turn out quite as nicely.
Another view of the leaf-mobile.
Mobile materials in my studio.