Spring Open Studios is just around the corner. When it’s this beautiful outside, with spring fever in the air, how do any of us get any work done? I have been grappling with this for the past two months. All that rain has produced an amazing unfolding of natural beauty on our Peninsula. How can I not throw down my brush and run out to the trails? How can I then not try to bring the new information I’ve experienced back into my studio, to attempt to spill it out into my artwork? It could be a direct visual replication, an obscure abstraction of thought, or even more elusive still, a spark of energy that inspires a new artistic direction. Possibility is everywhere.
Two days ago, while seated in a canvas chair in a large wild meadow deep in the interior of Henry Coe State Park, reading, I had the delightful surprise of having my bare big toe licked by a small garter snake. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the snake or me, when our eyes met. We both jumped about 6 inches in the air, my heavy torso landing right back down onto my folding chair, while the snake’s twisting body shot like a bullet directly under me and into the tall grass about five feet beyond. I am now assuming all future meadows, in art or nature, will bring to my delighted mind images of small teenage snakes tasting toes of unsuspecting strangers and then wheeling about in surprise. The question is, will I paint a snake into my future grassy field canvases? Will I cover the snake up with grass so the viewers can’t see it unless they look ever so closely? Am I an artist who tells the story of my experiences with my work? If so, how personal can these stories be to resonate with the viewer?
Ah. The question of autobiography often comes up when we look at artwork. While it is easy to assume that art is a reflection of close experience, we can not assume that a painter or sculptor will be representing images from their subjectively personal lives. Artists of all types enjoy viewing the broad terrain, creating images that speak the truth for themselves and hopefully for others as well. The distance between an intimate emotional experience and a general observation about mankind and the earth’s biological landscape is as long and variegated as the life of the individual artists themselves. When we add on a consideration of the viewer’s interpretation the art takes on a number of realities in direct proportion to the number of viewers. Basically, art is one thing while in the mind of the artist, an ever changing thing while the medium is under the process of creation, and an endless possibility of things when viewed from the shifting realities of multiple viewers.
The studio artists at PMA are an eclectic lot, with a wide mix of techniques, materials, and perspectives. The study of nature rates high on thematic inspiration, thus my musings about spring fever. A piece of art is a marvelous jumping off point that can lead to multidimensional inner experiences or outer discussions, depending on how much effort we put into perceiving, processing, and expressing what we see, feel, think, and wonder about. I have my little snake to tickle my fancy when creating meadows in my own art and when viewing the meadows of my peers. Likewise, my studio neighbor, the world traveler Doriane Heyman, is most likely intrigued both subjectively and objectively by all natural and artistic representations of water. As she explains it, “Water has been a painting subject that I come back to time and again. Still water, moving water, with or without reflections... there is so much variety and I love to contemplate it.”
Attached are a few samples of the art you will see at our May 14 & 15 open studio weekend. The artists have provided a few words to guide us more deeply into their experiences of the past year.
Michael Kesselman: “I continue fashioning mergers that work like unhostile takeovers, hybrids that capture and delight the viewer's mind like a joke or metaphor. It is Art's secret formula; don't tell anyone.”
John Csongradi: “I've played in the desert and my studio this past year.”
Kevyn Warnock: "Cow Parsnips is my most recent painting. It was a delight to paint… I let go of my usual inhibitions and enjoyed a rare freedom of brushstroke and color. An Artist always strives for this feeling. I like the painting.”
Linda Salter: “Since our last Open Studios I've continued to do portraits by layering colors (starting with green). People keep asking me why layer instead of putting the desired color down directly. These small 5x7 studies show why. In the first one the color is directly applied; the 2nd is layered. Some like the first one--the colors have more chromo and the image has a poster-like quality. However, I strongly prefer the layered one: that portrait has a much more complex skin tone and conveys a sense of depth.”
Teresa Hsu: “After years of painting tightly controlled-style watercolor paintings, I decided this year to loosen up and explore something new. A fellow artist introduced me to alcohol ink and I like how the ink seems to have a mind of its own. Different colors of ink react to paper and tools differently, too. It has been exciting to learn as I go along and now I have come up with this new style of painting on Yupo papers. Not to say that I am abandoning my old painting style, but this is a part of transformations which all artists must go though. I hope you will enjoy them.”
We all hope you enjoy your visit to our studios. Happy spring!
“PAI on My Mind” contains the personal observations of the artist in Studio 26, and not necessarily those of PAI as a whole.