So, I didn't mention this because I don't like posting very personal things on the Interwebz, but my dog died in August. It was really hard on my mom and me. I didn't really want to talk about it with anyone.
But I made my mom this picture of Calypso for Christmas, with her big pink belly and her knobbly feel and big giant eyeballs. I was going to depict her engaged in an activity, but Calypso's favorite activities were killing rabbits and rolling in shit, so I went for a more traditional portrait.
Here she is.
Back from the madness that is the holiday season, I've finally completed some more large paintings. Also, my broken camera decided it was tired of being a drama queen and now works again. I hope this is foreshadowing of the rest of my encounters with technology--that if they break I can just ignore them for a while and they'll fix themselves without requiring effort or money on my part.
Actually, more than likely, my luck with technology has all been spent up and my next blog post will be scanned in at the public library after I had to write it on a typewriter.
So! Onto the artwork. The two seen here are additions to the Home collection, and are finally finished after much deliberation. On top we have The Storm Gatherers. This is one of the rare instances when I've made up an image to go with a title, rather than the other way around. The title comes from a Henry Darger piece, which is actually titled A Storm Gathers but, like I often do, I read it wrong and thought it said something cooler. The end result is this painting, 44 X 46 inches and about three thousand pounds of stand oil glazes. It features a theme I've been liking lately, which is an organized group of small girls, who seem unassuming but who are probably up to something nefarious, in this case, summoning a storm with the help of lightning rods, weather vanes and a barometer. A similar clutch of these girls can be seen in The Harvest. Most of the girls are based on photographs of me when I was little, and the outfits are actual clothes I've owned, namely ballet recital costumes and summer dresses. Stylistically, this painting echoes The Discovery of a False Moon in its glazy, open field-setting.
Then there is Outlands, whose bizarre size (8 X 18 inches) was dictated by the size of the fabric on which it is painted. This fabric was not purchased, but rather came from an old skirt of my mother's, so I didn't have the luxury of choosing a reasonable size. I wanted to do this painting for a long time, but couldn't find small enough stretchers until recently. Also, although I like the way it came out, I don't recommend painting on old fabric; it gets fuzzy and when gessoed (gesso'd?) the fuzziness ends up as stiff lumps and detail work is very difficult. There is also a hole in the fabric, which is hard to see but obviously not ideal, and overall the fabric is worn and not as structurally sound as new fabric. But I still like it. The figures are taken from photographs of my mother (in the white shirt, center) and some friends from her Brownie troop on a field trip in the early '60s. Like the ones used in the Huntington paintings, the photos are kind of weird and don't have a feeling of being in a specific place.
I've always liked patterned fabric. I have, currently, an overflowing grocery bag full of scraps of old clothes stuffed in the back of the terror-jungle that it my closet. I've made a few quilts with them, starting from the traditional patchwork squares to the one I'm currently "working" on (quotes signal that in this context, "working" means "leaving it sitting on my dresser for the past six months") is more of a landscape, complete with silver raindrops (old curtains left over from when my room was space-themed in middle school) and elephants. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I like patterned fabric because for me, it evokes memory, the way that old clothes and blankets do.
For a while, I was in the habit of painting very intricate patterns in the backgrounds of my paintings. You can see some of them in the Woods series that I discussed earlier. It was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. So one day in the summer, I stretched and primed these three canvases--er, non-canvases. Huntingtons I and II are primed with clear gesso, which I don't recommend as it dries to a weird, sandy sort of texture that is difficult to work with, particularly on a small scale. It can also fog up the fabric itself. Croton Point is primed with acrylic gloss medium, which s nice and smooth and wonderful. (Note: If you choose to try this, be sure to coat the front and the back of the cloth several times with the priming medium, as fabric like this is much thinner and has a more open weave than canvas.) They are quite small, the largest of them being only a foot square.
Painting on fabric is really fun. For one thing, the painting surface becomes part of the image, and you can fade it in and out of the painted areas with a pretty nice effect. These are all based pretty literally on photographs. Huntington I (Shadows), top, and Huntington II (Starfields), center, are taken from photographs of my mother and aunt as kids with some of their younger cousins. They're weird photos, in that little square 1960s format, taken by kids in strong summer sunlight, lending them a strange and spontaneous sort of quality. Croton Point, at the bottom, is based on a photo taken by me, of my friend and his now-ex-girlfriend, about two years ago. The weird brown animals are my own invention. Fittingly, my mother brought me the fabric samples of the Huntingtons, and the green piece I bought at a vintage shop in New Paltz. These are the first paintings in which I dealt with memory as a place, and I took a fairly literal approach, using photographs, which are what people commonly use to preserve memory.
I just begun my Galatea painting--by begun I mean it's a series of sketchy lines on canvas that make sense only to me. It owes a bit to both images (bottom two, above and below: Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau). Stylistically, I suppose it's a bit more similar to Moreau, with the primary focus on the Galatea figure and the dark background. Or, it will be. We can only hope. It's something of a departure from what I've been doing, as well as from the things I've been looking at in terms of reference material. Much more ornate and flowery. But it's also the first painting I've done with such a blatantly classical theme; it somehow, therefore, seems appropriate. Or maybe it just seems that way to me.
And seriously, isn't Redon's cyclops like the cutest thing EVER?
The images preceding the Galateas are the kinds of things I've been liking lately. Kind of a faded memory, old family photograph, memory-blending-with-imagination-type thing. Vast and unknown landscapes of the interior and exterior alike.
Something like that.