Monday, October 24, 2011

10.24.2011 ~ mazes & labyrinths

The labyrinth pattern of Chartres Cathedral, c. 1200 A.D.

Recently I had an extraordinary experience: I was invited by a friend to help her build a labyrinth.

If you're like me you think you know what a labyrinth is. Chances are though you're mistaken — as I was.
A labyrinth is not a maze.
A maze is designed to confound and confuse. There are many wrong turns and dead-ends, and you may not ever find your way to the sweet spot at the end. There's a certain urgency and anxiety and threat of doom associated with mazes.

The goal of a labyrinth, on the other-hand, is contemplation. Peacefulness. There is only one pathway — the long and circuitous path to the center. There are stops and turns, but if you stay on the path you will find your way to the sweet center.

My friend Karen (of Artful Tea fame, who has quite an interesting personal story) is constructing a labyrinth in her backyard. The pathway is a mosaic of shards — broken bits of porcelain, stoneware, crockery, china, blown glass, mirror — many of which have storied histories all their own. These shards are pressed more or less randomly into a base of cement. It's a long process creating a pathway of cement and glass, so Karen is inviting friends to help her along in the journey. I'm honored to have been invited to participate.

The first step of a new labyrinth mosaic artist is, of course, to walk the labyrinth design as is — partially completed, the rest sketched out in the earth — and get a feel for the journey.
It's an intriguing adventure following this path of earth and glass, contemplating the colored fragments catching the afternoon sun, and the story of those who selected and placed these certain jewels.

The second step is to get to work: Karen mixed the cement, while I, on hands and knees in the pebbled dirt, selected my palette of shards. When the cement was ready and poured, I set about swiftly placing my shards in the soft (but quickly firming) cement. 

Each batch of cement was enough for a swath of path a little over a foot long; in the course of a couple hours we completed five or six swaths of pathway.

Since that sunny Saturday afternoon some weeks ago, I have found myself thinking about labyrinths....The beautiful symmetry of pattern, and the journey of the path therein.

I've been thinking too, about my own life's journey, and the path I'm on.

Lately Life has seemed more like a maze than a labyrinth — a maze of meaningless clutter. I'm not talking about the clutter of brick-a-brac that needs dusting in the house (I cleared out much of that a while ago), but rather the clutter of constant visual, mental and emotional stimulation. Of being "plugged in" 24/7, bombarded with never-ending updates and soundbites of cleverness, inanity, gags, information, "news".....everything.
My mind and soul just seem to be pleading for down time. For quietness. For contemplation. For thoughtful, meaningful, slow-time interaction with friends and, just as importantly, my own Self.

I'll be departing on a journey soon. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a particularly unusual or grand adventure. But it's one that promises much time for contemplation and inspiration of the creative mind and spirit.

The Maze, I'm hoping to leave behind me
and step instead onto the path of my life's Labyrinth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10.11.2011 ~ returning to spring

 returning to spring
oil on panel   12 x 12 inches
copyright dawn chandler 2011

I love this painting. It feels peaceful and juicy in the jewel-like intensity of the colors.

Here again, the foundation of this piece is a traditional landscape — though you'd be hard pressed to find any hint of Baldy Mountain from Wilson Mesa hidden under these abstract passages of brilliant color. About the only trace of its former life lies revealed in the bit of turquoise (sky) in the upper left. 

There's a richness to the colors and texture of the paint surface here that could only be possible through the building up and scraping down of layers of paint. This is really the main reason I like to "recycle" old paintings and give them a new life: Because the surfaces and depth of color achievable from layering paint add depth, brilliance and visual interest, and these aspects really excite me.

Familiar elements — my visual language — appear here: suggested archways or passageways....soaring birds (which of late usually appear as a pair — my parents)....mysterious thoughts scratched into the surface of the paint...those three red punctuation points....

All in all, in my view a quietly joyful, forward-looking piece. 

Returning to Sring is on view through October 21, 2011 at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10.10.11 ~ cutting a path through autumn

cutting a path through autumn
oil on canvas  10 x 8 inches
copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

Sometimes I just crave color — big, bold, juicy color. 

And sometimes I guess I just crave a little bit of rebellion.

This painting started as a traditional landscape painting — a scene of horses grazing in a meadow in the Valle Vidal, with a line of voluminous cottonwoods behind them. You can see the cool greens of the original scene — fragments of the foliage and meadow — emerging throughout. A lone horse remains, grazing near the bottom of the picture.

Obviously I wasn't too satisfied with the original landscape; the paint handling in the landscape felt cumbersome. The canvas kicked around my studio for a long while when finally it called to me in want of metamorphosis. 

There's nothing quite so liberating and joyfully defiant as taking a loaded palette knife and making the decision to attack a painting that I've been laboring over. But there's also always a little bit of fear involved. The internal conversation in my head usually goes something like this:

"This painting sucks. I should just attack it."

"Wait — it doesn't suck *that* badly. Look at those nice passages through there."

"No, it sucks. I'd rather start the whole thing all over again. This one isn't going to get any better; it's already too labored."

"But if you attack it, you may really ruin it."

"Yeah well, I think that's a risk I'm willing to take. And more than likely It's going to transform into something I can't yet imagine, but that in the end I'm going to love." 

"Or not." 

"Yeah....maybe so....But so what? It's just paint!"

"You sure you want to do this? It really isn't that bad." 

"It's too late: I've already thought to do it; now I have to. [heart beating a little faster] I need to let this one go!"

"You may be sorry."

"I don't care! I HAVE to do this! I'm going for it!"

And it's always the right decision.

Cutting a Path Through Autumn is on view through October 21, 2011 at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

10.09.2011 ~ thank you

Grateful to everyone who ventured out on a dark and stormy night Friday to come to my art show opening at the Downey Gallery. You are brave souls! I regret not keeping my camera handy during the party, but did get at least one pic of the gallery before the arrival of the water-logged masses.

Lovely to see my so many of my paintings displayed together on walls other than those of my studio.  Even lovelier to see so many friends. Thank you all!

Recent Paintings by Dawn Chandler will be on display at the Downey Gallery at 225 Canyon Road, Santa Fe until 10/21/11.