PMA has its spring Open Studios on the first weekend of May. All 30 studio doors are open and visitors are invited inside to see the results of the past year’s explorations. There has been an exuberance of questioning and answering going on within the multiple creative formats.
As you might notice, the name of this blog has changed to “PMA Heartbeat.” Artists by definition are creative people who are listening to their inner voice (heartbeat) as it insists that they figure out the answers to problems of the intellect or emotion. It could be a question of form, color, light, execution, time & space, composition, connection and disconnection. Visual art depicts the process and product of this exploration.
There are no complete answers in the creative mind. Every completed project opens a window to new questions. The mature artist expects these new questions and craves getting to the meat of this matter on their next project. On and on. It’s the heartbeat of the creative spirit.
In the seascapes image above you see how Ellen Howard has grappled with questions relating to composition, color, light, form, texture, and movement. One question that intrigues me is how can a seascape painter depict movement in the sky to balance all that roiling about below. In the large image, you see that Howard has used strong horizontal brush strokes above the horizon. This suggests to us a passage of time and gives an impression of energetic balance to the composition. Another question that might come to the painter's mind is how to depict the intensity of waves as they meet rock during different weather cycles. The amount of sideways mist might give hints as to the amount of wind in the air. Ellen Howard will be giving a charcoal drawing and small oil painting demonstration in studio 4 on the Saturday of Open Studio.
Kevyn Warnock (studio 25) deals with similar questions while addressing her oil canvases. She explains: “My ‘Footsteps’ painting is really the challenge I expected it to be and more. It is my habit to choose a subject that stretches my abilities as a painter and artist. ‘Footsteps’ has been a struggle, triumph and failure all in one painting. How do I paint turbulent sand to look and feel like the slippery, sliding and moving thing it is? There’s form with no form. Shadows that change color midway into bright sunlight. ARGH! I’m still struggling and will be for a while. Perhaps there will never be a finished ‘Footsteps’ painting. The accompanying photo is of the unfinished painting.”
In an even closer perspective is Teresa Hsu (studio 32) who is known for her detail-oriented, large watercolors of river rocks. In reference to a recent painting she says: “After taking a long break from painting rocks, I am back to painting them again, and loving it. In the past, whether it’s sand or water, I’ve always had some sort of background on all my rock paintings. But now I have experimented with leaving the background white. No sand nor water. It seems to make us more focused on each rock; for its colors and texture. It may not make total sense, but it’s different, and I like the refreshed feeling I get while painting around the white space.” It appears to me that the time Hsu spent away from painting rocks enabled the painter to see the rocks from a new perspective… creating new questions and new answers.
Ellen Chong (studio 20) mentioned recently that she is working on the question of how to place flamingos in a pond and somehow capture the vigor of life that beats within these stately, elegant, slow moving birds.
Nearby, in studio 31, June Levin grapples with questions that arise when the human figure enters the landscape. The painter twinkles a laugh at her own questioning mind: “How do I use figures to create mood? Don't paint faces...turn 'em around? Make them looking at something? What something? A wave, a book, a wall with ivy? If I paint faces, leave out the eyes? Well, just turn 'em around and put hats on their heads... Minimize detail in background/ foreground. Make the people thoughts count.”
“People thoughts” is an apt segue into the work of Neil Murphy (studio 29) who explores questions involving how to depict that which is not literally seen, but might be experienced as inner landscapes of the imagination. He explains: “The ‘Inversion Series’ is a continuation of the curious maps project, but shifts from daylight fantasy landscapes with trails to nighttime wanderings in a dark universe with paths connecting the stars to other elements of the composition. Much like people and ideas in the darkness of our times seem to 'glow' and sparkle with life, so similarly do these objects, shapes, lines, and brilliant pieces shine in their own dark microcosms. Against this darkness are bright way-points that represent small spots of hope and empathy. The 'inversion' aspect of these works comes from a digital manipulation that inverts, from light-to-dark, many of the parts and pieces that make up the composition.”
I will end this exploration of a few of the 30 studios that will be open on May 6 & 7 with a visit to Nancy Woods (studio 12). Woods never lacks for imagination, having a unique question and answer session with every used piece of furniture that enters her studio and begs to be painted. Here we see an assortment of chairs and stools that speak about the joyful and playful dialogue we can choose to bring to our daily lives, even if it’s just a matter of quietly sitting with it.
When you travel through the studios during the first weekend of May you will be experiencing the daily heartbeat of PMA, and you will probably be coming up with a number of questions yourself. Pose these to the artists. They love to converse about their work, and in doing so you amplify the artful spirit within yourself. Hope to see you on May 6 or 7, Saturday and Sunday. Doors are open from 11am to 5pm.
- - -
"PMA Heartbeat" contains the personal observations of the artist in Studio 26, and not necessarily those of PMA as a whole.