Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Almost Ready

Almost ready… but for what? 

My young model was about to be photographed in the attire of her choosing, in which she felt most beautiful. A red t-shirt she got from summer camp where she had her first week-away-from-home experience and a black knitted cap pulled down low on her forehead. Her ponytail was in the back and none of her hair could be seen. Not wanting viewers to confuse her for a boy, I asked if it would be okay to rearrange her hair into a side ponytail and let her long mane flow down her shoulder and chest. She kindly obliged and took off the cap, slipped off the rubber band, and began combing her hair with her fingers. As she pulled it to the side I saw the image I wanted to paint. 

                                       Almost Ready
                                       Oil on Canvas
                                       16 x 20

Working from the top down I watched as she emerged from the canvas, using bigger brushes to keep the image very realistic but also loose. For a long time I have been using brushes size 6 and smaller, often working with a size 2, making my work very tight and accurate. I want to loosen up and let my work look more “painterly”.  I liked the way it looked when unfinished, it seemed to say enough. Knowing when to stop is a challenge. One stroke too many can ruin a painting that was showing promise.  It was important to me to paint her hair because I know how long she has been waiting for it to grow, the time she takes styling it, and how she often likes to hide behind it. So I worked down the canvas and stopped before I reached the bottom. 

I needed to leave part of it unfinished, because there is always more to say. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Saved From The Landfill

The Crying Indian
48" x 48"

I am excited to have this piece back in my collection after spending the last 3 months in the 4th Annual Scrapel Hill Contest and Exhibition in Chapel Hill, NC, where it won 2nd place. As much as I love this piece, I realize you have to be a certain age to know who this is! I have to be satisfied if the 30-something and younger crowd understands that this is a portrait of "an American Indian".  Little do they know the controversy around that title! It wasn't until I began work on this Assemblage that I learned the truth- that Iron Eyes Cody was born in Louisiana, the son of Italian immigrants and not of Cherokee/Cree extraction as he claimed. But he married a Native American woman, adopted and raised two Native American children, and devoted the rest of his life to Native American causes. He was generally accepted as one of them. Good enough for me! 

What I remember is the famous 1971 Keep America Beautiful ad campaign featuring Iron Eyes Cody as the "Crying Indian", who paddled his canoe up a trash filled river into a polluted industrial city, landing on a litter-strewn bank. He then walks up to the highway where trash is literally thrown from a passing car onto his feet. His wordless response is a single tear as the commercial ends with the narrator saying “People start pollution; people can stop it.”

I'm not sure when it dawned on me that he was an actor, and this commercial was a job. Having always wanted to be an Native American living in the wilderness, I related to his love of the natural world and his sorrow for man's disregard of it. The Crying Indian was the face of litter prevention throughout my childhood. In this piece, his face is made from materials that are disposed of daily, objects destined for the landfill. They have been reused and repurposed to remind us “what people start, people can stop”. I am working to teach my family to be mindful of what we use and throw away, but have to admit I still obtain much of the material for my work from home. However, the kids are learning the difference between "good trash" and "bad trash"...

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Sense of Place

Great Egret
Assemblage of Post-Consumer Materials
24"x 24"

I have always been drawn to the majestic-looking egret. As a child, I was always excited to spot them in the marsh, at the edge of the creek in the low country where I grew up. The introverted side of me appreciated their solitude and statuesque stillness as they patiently waited for the right moment to reach down and grab their dinner as it swam by. Every time I saw one, whether looking down as we drove over a bridge or at eye-level in a boat racing through the creeks, I would stop and stare until it was out of sight. There is a tranquil beauty to the marsh and it was accentuated by the egret's presence, with her snowy white feathers popping out among the darker green grasses. I cling to this unhurried image even more now as I often rush around town like a chicken with my head cut off!

I was inspired to create this piece after hearing about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.  It was the largest accidental marine spill in history and the oil flowed non-stop for 3 months. It released at least 4.9 million barrels of crude oil. And as the oil moved toward shore and washed into the marsh I thought about the animal life I knew would be affected. And I thought about the egret.

This piece is created primarily from plastic, which comes from crude oil. It includes toys, pens, bottle caps, toothbrushes, and other household items. "Great Egret" is currently on display at the McKissick Museum of Art on the USC campus and will be on sale at the Gala Fundraiser, A Sense of Place, August 24th.