Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What's Cooking in the Studio



 
I have been starting a couple of Modernist landscapes. I am working from photos I have taken of Rainy Lake and the Review Islands (Crow, Mallard, Gull, Hawk and Fawn Islands). My thoughts about these paintings have been careening from one idea to another as I am discovering what these paintings are about for me.  I often start a series of paintings with a sense that this is the right direction for my work even though I can't explain why.

As I paint I have been pondering this selection of subject matter: landscapes done in a style reminiscent of early to mid-Modernist (1880's - 1930). Why do this? What, for me, is the connection between the style and the subject? The North, the Rainy Lake area, harkens back to an earlier time for me. When I travel to the Review Islands I think of growing up and visiting my grandparents who always lived on a lake. Like the historic buildings on the Review Islands, my grandparents' houses were not filled with the newest technology. Some items in the houses dated back to the 1800's. Having been born in the early 1900's and never having lived in a city of appreciable size, their ways made their home a unique and pleasant visit. For me, early and mid-Modernism handling of the water in these paintings gives me the same feeling of being a kid and watching the patterns on the water for hours at a time and allowing my imagination to become one with the sparkles, ripples and waves. I think of dock spiders and sitting and fishing with my grandfather, I think of hunting for crayfish under rocks in Agate Bay. Even now, on this cold Minnesota night, I can conjure up the feeling of the sun on my shirtless back and neck, the feel of my hand hovering in the warm air and then slipping slowly into the cool water to quietly lay on top of a slimy rock. Then, the slow extraction of the rock to find my prey laying still, as if its hiding place had not been removed, as if it was a rock itself. Finally, the plunge to grab the prize before it squirted away to another rock not that far away - and the process would start again. Memory, like this Modernist technique, is odd in its ability to focus.  Sometimes it takes the complexity and depth of events and packages them into a simple emotional experience of appreciation.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have old and focused memories of water, docks, sunlight. I recall dangling newly painted toenails in the water and having the sunnies nibble at my toes. I remember how the reflections off the waves shine up into the heights of the Norway Pine tree, glimmering there 50 feet over the water. I can't paint these memories, except with words.

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