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..
sky...
how you splayed...
insisted I caress...
each..
the horses..
i want nothing... 
of death...
absence..
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.

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