Tuesday, March 27, 2012

03.27.2012 ~ i am a plain woman

i am a plain woman ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on panel ~ 24 x 24 inches  ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

I am a Plain Woman** evolved from a painting I started almost a year ago. It was unresolved, and I was a bit stumped as to how to proceed further with it. At that point there was an underlying foundation of collaged imagery, including the maternal photograph in the lower center. This photograph was taken in 1932, and is of my grandmother cradling her newborn — my mother.
As an artist and woman without children approaching a half-century of living, ideas of childbearing and motherhood, solitude and life journeys have been on my mind. And with the relatively recent deaths of both of my parents, I find myself reflecting considerably on their lives and their influence on my own. Questions emerge that I wish I had thought to ask them. I've been wondering about the assumptions we make about people and their past.
The moment I read Barbara Rockman's Georgia O'Keefe poem**, I knew it somehow held the solution for my unresolved painting.     

After adding the poem to the painting, I obscured the text, only to reveal fragments of phrases that resonate:

I am a plain woman...
I sleep in a narrow bed...
These are hands that...
With the tips of wings..
how you splayed...
insisted I caress...
the horses..
i want nothing... 
of death...
What can a man know?

On the right, I added an image of a ghostly figure sitting in a towering cloister. This is based on a tender photograph of my mother, taken by my father just weeks after their wedding in the summer of 1954. (They were married for over 50 years, before my mother died of breast cancer in 2007).

When I started this painting, I really had no idea where it was going or what it was about. In the end, it is an Ode to my beloved mother, and the long line of strong and inspiring women in my family.

** I Am a Plain Woman is my painting in the Odes & Offerings exhibition currently on display at the Santa Fe Community Gallery. To learn more about the concept of this remarkable exhibition, and the parameters of the artwork on display, please see my previous couple of blog posts, here and here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

03.25.2012 ~ odes & offerings, fulfilled

I Am a Plain Woman, detail ~ by Dawn Chandler
I've been in a contended daze all weekend — a result of experiencing the duet art exhibitions: Odes & Offerings [O&O] which opened Friday evening to a packed house at the Santa Fe Community Gallery [SFCC], and Odes & Offerings, deconstructed [O&Od] at the GVG Contemporary on Canyon Road. 

The premise of O&O was this: Joan Logghe, the poet laureate of Santa Fe, invited 35 poets to submit four poems each. She then selected two poems from each poet. Meanwhile the committee of the Community Gallery selected 35 visual artists who use text in their work. Joan then paired each artist with a poet. The artist selected one of the poems and then incorporated the text of the poem into a work of art. The idea was not to interpret the poem, but rather to use the words within the work. One could use the whole poem or a mere stanza or two.

One of the artists selected, Blair Vauhn-Gruler, with her husband artist Ernst Gruler, owns GVG Contemporary. She found that while creating her piece for the SFCG, she came up with smaller pieces that were complete works of art in their own right. Other of the artists, she learned, had a similar experience, and so she graciously offered to exhibit these smaller, "deconstructed" works at GVG Contemporary, as a sister show to O&O.

I was invited to participate in both shows, and quite an honor it was, especially in view of the level of excellence of the art submitted — both visual and poetic. I had the further honor of being paired with poet Barbara Rockman, and chose her poem,
Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe To Alfred Stieglitz Upon Seeing His Photograph of Her Hands. What a remarkable creative journey her words provided me...(More of that when I post my paintings, anon). Interestingly, Barbara and I did not meet until Friday night at the reception, but I think I can speak for both of us when I say we felt an instant, mutual connection. 

Rarely have I been to art exhibitions which have delighted me so completely. It was simply delicious to walk around these exhibitions and discover so many varieties of creativity....so many words, beautiful words.... And to mingle with and overhear the conversations of visual artists meeting poets...It was uplifting and inspiring and radiant. Indeed, it makes me think I'd like to surround myself with more poetry....and poets.

Monday, March 19, 2012

03.19.2012 ~ Odes & Offerings

It's been a busy few days as I've delivered paintings for two exciting and upcoming Santa Fe art shows.

The first is Odes & Offerings, at the Santa Fe Community Gallery at 201 West Marcy Street, with an opening Friday, March 23 from 5 - 7.

Here's a little bit of background about the show from the gallery press release:

During the exhibition of Joan Logghe’s Poet Laureate exhibit “Odes & Offerings” in the Community Gallery, a series of programs are scheduled to enhance the community’s appreciation of poetry and the written word.  This collaborative exhibit asked 36 visual artists to incorporate the words of 36 poets in their work. 

Participating poets are:  Tommy Archuleta, John Brandi, Debbi Brody, Witter Bynner, Lauren Camp, Sudasi Clement, Catherine Ferguson, Phil Geronimo, Jenice Gharib, Natalie Goldberg, Renee Gregorio, Judyth Hill, Michelle Holland, Kathamann, Piper Leigh, Dana Levin, Donald Levering, Jane Lipman, Joan Logghe, Mary McGinnis, James McGrath, Carol Moldow, Mary Morris, Elizabeth Raby, Stella Reed, Barbara Robidoux, Barbara Rockman, Leo Romero, Levi Romero, Miriam Sagan, Lorraine Schechter, Santana Shorty, Henry Shukman, Charles Trumbull, Anne Valley-Fox, and Cynthia West.

The exhibit includes work by:  Bobbe Besold, Joy Campbell, Dawn Chandler, Peter Chapin, Matthew Chase-Daniel, Dana Chodzko, Bernadette Freeman, Ursula Freer, Charles Greeley, Roger Green, Andrew Keim, Shirley Klinghoffer, Ann Laser, Piper Leigh, Thelma Mathias, Kathleen McCloud, Sabra Moore, Kuzana Ogg, Janet O’Neal, Sallyann Paschall, Gail Rieke, Brenda Roper, Donna Ruff, Jane Shoenfeld, Carol Sky, Michael Stone, Nancy Sutor, Bunny Tobias, Edie Tsong, Blair Vaughn-Gruler, Suzanne Vilmain, Julie Wagner, Cynthia West, Melanie West, Ruth Weston and S.K. Yeatts.

The second exhibition is Odes & Offerings, deconstructed — a sister exhibition to the first, exhibiting art works that grew out of the process of merging poetry with visual art. deconstructed will take place at the GVG Contemporary gallery at 202 Canyon Road with an opening Saturday, March 24 from 5 - 7.

I am thrilled and honored to have been selected to participate in these events.
Check back to see the paintings I've created for these two inspiring shows!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

03.12.2012 ~ vermont before and after

I have a collection of disappointing paintings. These are paintings that I've created and which, for various reasons, didn't work out to my satisfaction. So they're in a stack on the floor of my studio, leaning against the wall, awaiting a new life.

Last week I was finishing up a couple of days of oil painting. The next day I would be leaving on a week-long trip, and I knew that the left-over colors I had mixed on my glass palette probably wouldn't last til my return (paint dries notoriously quickly in my sun-heated studio). So with the extra paint I decided to attack one of the reject paintings and see what would happen. I had no image in mind, let alone an end result — no intention of creating a landscape nor an abstraction. Rather, I just dove in with my paint-loaded palette knife and waited to see what emerged. 
And then — in a matter of moments, really — the paint worked itself into a very satisfying scene! 

Here's the before:
stowe vermont winter, v
— 6 x 6 inches — oil on panel — from the daily painting series
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2010 - 2012
And here's the after:
untitled vermont
— 6 x 6 inches — oil on panel — from the daily painting series
— copyright Dawn Chandler 2012
It's funny, the first version is a much more dynamic composition, with the zigzagging of the brush and fence-line and shadows of the hills. But the second version is more satisfying to me. Though the composition is hardly dynamic, the paint handling is. The first feels like a landscape observed from a distance, with somewhat studied brushstrokes; it feels cold and distant. The second feels like a place that has been experienced on a gut level; there's a feeling of immediacy in the all-over handling of the paint, and a real grounding of place. I especially love how we can see through the trees to flecks of snow further back in the woods. 
If I were to change this new version, I might make the four dominant trees a little less symmetrical: right now there's two brown trees on the left and two white (birch?) trees on the right, all spaced evenly across the mid-ground and all more or less the same size. Boring? Yeah, kinda.... On the other hand, they sort of beg a narrative: Who are these two "couples" and what are they talking about? 
Just the thought of that makes me chuckle.
A couple of details:

Any preference?   

Monday, March 05, 2012

03.05.2011 ~ santa fe ~ afternoon path

santa fe ~ afternoon path ~ oil on canvas ~ copyright dawn chandler 2011

On the west edge of the property is an old road that's become washed out and overgrown. My dog and I like to walk it when the shadows are long, in the early morning or, as here, in the late afternoon.

This is my favorite of last year's late autumn paintings. Over the years I've struggled with so much that is represented in this painting: the volume of trees in general, the color of evergreens in particular, the volume and color of sage, the color of shadows, just the right shade of blue for the sky. Yet here, The Muse seemed to be smiling and allowed me to capture them all better than usual — and almost effortlessly at that. The paint feels fresh, not belabored. Probably could have teased out a few more colors in those darkest shadows...but it works as is.

If only every painting session could come together so well!

Friday, March 02, 2012

03.02.2012 ~ dixon, new mexico ~ miya's tree

miya's tree ~ dixon, new mexico ~ oil on canvas ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

As I write this I'm pausing every now and then to sip tea from a vessel formed from clay in the nimble hands of my friend Miya. Yes, Miya is a potter (check out her beautiful work here), and she lives in a cottage at the end of a dirt road in beautiful Dixon, New Mexico.

A couple of years ago I did a painting of Miya's studio. If you were to stand in that painting, and turn around 180 degrees, this is the view you would see — only here it is October, rather than April. I've zoomed in on the distant landscape, bringing in closer the hills and that radiant, solitary cottonwood tree — Miya's tree. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

03.01.2012 ~ rio grande autumn

Rio Grande Autumn 01 ~ 2011 ~ 8 x 10 inches ~ oil on canvas ~ copyright Dawn Chandler 2011

I've been cleaning out my studio — moving everything off the walls and out from floor stacks to make room for new work. It's liberating to have blank walls....and not a little bit intimidating. But mostly it's inspiring to consider the possibilities and potential those clear expanses of wall invite.

Among the paintings being moved out are a several autumn scenes I painted late this past year and never got around to sharing here.. I had forgotten about them, and was rather charmed to find them again.

Looking at this painting, I'm reminded of what a menace I am come autumn.... I'm just a dangerous driver when the cottonwoods turn golden in the autumn; I can't take my eyes off of them. The roads would be a whole lot safer if I just sat in the passenger seat and let someone else drive.

Anyhow, I like the sketchiness of this — that it was done quickly, without deliberating too much. The main masses of colors were made, and then just a few smaller details merely suggested. I like, too, that I left some of the stained canvas exposed — those patches of rust bleeding through.