Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Revelatory Qualities

Have you ever had an experience where time stands still for days on end? Where you have to step back every once and a while and breath deep because life feels like a dream?

My two and a half weeks on Nantucket was certainly that experience, more so than the first time.

I have been home for four days. Life has most definitely taken center stage again, but I find myself day dreaming about the revelatory qualities of the island, trying to keep my memory alive. I didn't paint as much as I wanted, but I look at my small collection, glad that I tried to capture what I was feeling rather than what I was seeing.

Just about every morning I would wake before the others, to make coffee, read, and admire how the clouds would break away to sunshine and blue skies.

On the final evening of the course, we were invited to the Art Cabinet Nantucket, now at a new location on the owner's property. It felt like a perfect ending with the sun setting over beautiful views.

Our professor had been asked to give a talk. The entire back wall of the gallery was dedicated to his work. I enjoyed hearing stories about how he grew up as a spiritual young man who gravitated to the spiritual connection he then felt when he started painting. He is a very knowledgeable man who takes pride in his position as a public university professor, as he feels he is genuinely able to make a difference with his students. I for one feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with him the last two summers.

Under his guidance, I think I've come a long way with painting. Before last summer I never painted. Now, I can't stop.

This summer, after the first week en plein air, where I pushed myself to be somewhat abstract, the second week we were required to be abstract. I spoke vaguely of my idea for the week here.

Here is how it progressed.

I'd like you to look at the final pieces and draw your own conclusions before I explain my ideas more completely. I wasn't really satisfied with my work until my classmates viewed it for the final time and each was able to create their own ideas and meaning. It was very satisfying to hear what they individually took from my work. 

So what's the big idea?
Home was a huge theme in my undergraduate work and I was so satisfied to work with it again, this time in a totally different context.

  • The top left is a simple 4 x 12 landscape with a transparent outline of the bird's wing and tail.
  • Below that is a 12 x 12 aerial landscape and outline of a swallow. Legend has it that sailors would tattoo a swallow on their body after every 5,000 nautical miles traveled. The swallow would also ensure safe travel home, as it returns to the same location every year. 
  • Finally on the right is a 12 x 16 panel. This also has an aerial landscape, a bit less defined, a compass, and the outline of a house that was printed with wax crayon. 

This came to me through the idea of "divine mind."
Things fell into place the last two summers and allowed me to study painting in an absolutely gorgeous location that I don't feel I would otherwise be able to travel to. I've had a great sense of freedom.
Things fell into place to allow my boyfriend and I to purchase his childhood home, the outline depicted in this piece. It's so cheesy, but I have been that wandering bird and I now have the opportunity to have my own home.

I have always identified with this quote from the 2004 movie, Garden State.
Andrew Largeman: You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your sh*t, that idea of home is gone.
Sam: I still feel at home in my house.
Andrew Largeman: You'll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it's gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist. Maybe it's like this rite of passage, you know. You won't ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I don't know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.
Sam: [cuddles up to Andrew] Maybe.

I get to start the cycle.
I just hope to slow down and still catch the revelatory qualities as I go.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Greater Light

Homes have names around here, like Windswept and Tucked Away. But I didn't realize this when our professor kept telling us last summer that we were going to Greater Light. I thought maybe it was a lighthouse or something and didn't expect it to be the inspiring summer home of two eccentric sisters from the 1930s.

I found the story of the Monaghan Sisters pretty awesome. Gertrude and Hanna, Quakers from Philadelphia, came to Nantucket as part of a growing artist's colony between the two world wars. Back home, Gertrude was a professional muralist, painting walls of department stores, and Hanna was an accomplished actress and author. The two, ten years apart, originally rented a small studio near the harbor, until 1929 when they followed a heard of cows to a dilapidated barn. They purchased the building from the grocer and transformed the structure into their new home and studio, adorning the rooms with their collection of things, "including twelve-foot-high wrought-iron gates, Italian gilded columns, decorative church windows, and exotic adornments from around the globe. Natural scavengers with means, they took every opportunity to acquire eclectic furnishings for their new temple to the arts."via

This is what the great room looked like when the Nantucket Historical Association acquired the property. To me it looks like it could have come right out the pages of an Ikea catalogue. It looks like a room where I'd like to hang out, and from the sounds of it, the people would be like minded too.

I felt inclined to visit again, with hopes of finding an idea for this week's assignment: an abstract painting, or series, inspired by Nantucket. 

I came away with two quotes, two big ideas that are now the driving force behind my concept.

From Hanna's memoir, Greater Light on Nantucket.

Time is but a limited view of reality. The moment we call today, and the moment we call yesterday seem very close together. And now... a question arises with in me: 'Is it only what we see, chairs and rugs and tables which pass out in time or is there something enduring which lasts beyond the broken chair, the worn out rug, as a symbol of our love, as a part of the eternal love...?'

The sisters also believed in something they called "divine mind:" a providential tendency of the universe to fashion perfectly timed coincidences.

Like how I wound up on Nantucket. Twice.
Like how we're buying a house (oh yea, we're buying a house, surprise)
Like how those wrought- iron gates the sisters had waiting in storage for the right moment, were the exact same height as the roof over the patio at Greater Light. They just fit.

So where do these ideas take me?

To me, at this moment, it becomes a question of how to preserve that love...that feeling, that something that makes you feel.

It becomes a question of 

That evoke a memory,
                     a feeling

I am incorporating nautical symbols, inspired by scrimshaw and tattoos, with landscapes from various vantage points, and color, color, color. To capture the "revelatory qualities" of what I see and feel. 

Its all about the Greater Light on Nantucket.  

Week One and the Fourth of July Weekend

Wow, Studio Day One has turned into Week Two of my Nantucket Painting course.
In some ways time has flow by. In others, it is like I have been here a lifetime. I feel as though I have yet to get started, and at the same time feel like I have already learned a lot. And not just about painting.

After last week, this is what I accomplished:
This one is done
not yet where I want it to be...
needs some more work on the grassy hill
Over the Fourth of July weekend we experienced the remnants of Hurricane Arthur. I had a friend in town and we spontaneously caught the free shuttle bus to Cisco Brewery, hoping to catch a pint or two before the rain set in, on Friday afternoon. I have to say, we were pretty lucky and left just before it started to rain and the crowds most likely ran to leave.

Ready for the storm!
We spent the evening streaming movies via the internet, playing Uno and cooking dinner before the power may have potentially gone out. Thankfully it never did, but it flickered! 

Saturday was clear and beautiful, even a bit on the cool side in the morning. We went in town to catch the water fight, part of the postponed Fourth of July festivities, and wound up hanging out in the bookstore for a good forty-five minutes or so, before having a bite to eat. The day warmed up too, so we jumped the bus and went to Surfside beach for a few hours. 

Surfside is aptly named, but with the storm now north of us, the rip tide was pretty strong. I did not try to get into the water. I was very content with my headphones, my hat and my book. (I can not put down The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin! I find myself daydreaming about the story while I am in the studio) 

Saturday night was the first time in a long time that I have stayed up well past midnight; 3:30 in the morning! We started with a late dinner at the Starlight Cafe again and finished just in time to catch the end of the 9 pm fireworks display (which seemed to run a half hour shorter than last year) From there we went to our favorite bar, Slip 14 and stayed until it got crowded. We met up with another classmate and our professor after that, for a drink at Town. When our professor retired for the evening, we attempted to go dancing, but the placed closed shortly after we arrived. We returned home unfazed and were very happy sitting out our picnic table, talking about art and family, culture and other crazy things until the wee hours of the morning.

All of that necessitated a lazy Sunday, especially before a new week of paintings. 
I grabbed breakfast in town before walking my friend to the ferry. I was very happy to spend time with her and that she was able to enjoy Nantucket, if not for the two week course, but for a long weekend.

On my wanderings home, I stopped at a Historical Association site called Greater Light. The photo above is from the lovely, yet eerie garden. I went needing some inspiration for the week's assignment and while it took me a while to digest what I came away with, I am very happy I visited....

I'll leave that story for another post.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

I can hear sirens through the winds of tropical storm Arthur as I type. All of the typical Nantucket activities were postponed until tomorrow, same time, same place. So far the lights have flickered a few times and the weather has only forced us to stay indoors and require us to hang out together. In preparation, I picked up popcorn, cheese and crackers, beer and cards. We had a couple of fun rounds of Uno and a late dinner, before settling down for the night.
The winds are still howling as I get ready for bed. I look forward to some water fight adventures down town tomorrow before heading to the beach! As far as painting goes, I have three and a half canvases going and hope to work on them during the quiet hours of the morning this weekend. Next week begins a further study of abstraction and our final piece or pieces. Right now I am leaning towards canvases that work together as a whole. But only time will tell. Photos soon, promise!