Sunday, April 29, 2012

04.29.2012 ~ canyon awakening

slickhorn canyon, utah ~ cottonwoods, i ~ oil on panel ~ 6 x 6 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012

I awoke here.

a week ago.

....Well, just around that bend... my first night 'on the trail' in over two decades.

I'm a bit incredulous by that realization: that nearly a quarter-century had passed since I'd been backpacking.

Where has the time gone?

I guess I've just been busy doing other things. Some pretty cool things at that, I'd do well to remember. 

But still.

I was nearly weened on the Appalachian Trail. Some of my most essential memories and moments of divine insight were on wilderness trails with a pack on my back. It's why, despite my infatuation with "abstract" painting, I keep returning to the land, in an attempt to capture the spirit and beauty of a recognizable — and all too quickly diminishing — Nature.

Perhaps it's no surprise then that I've been feeling the call of the midnight trails again. The spirit of Colin Fletcher must be elbowing out some of my more familiar spirits of late....
Whatever the spiritual intervention, all I know is that when friends invited My Good Man and me to join them on a long weekend backpacking trip in Slickhorn Canyon in southeastern Utah, we jumped at the chance.

And what a trip it was....
...Perfect weather — warm days, cool (but not too cool) nights, the bluest of skies that filled with countless stars — many of the them shooting — on those moonless nights.
...Hardly another contemporary human in site for three days. I say 'contemporary' because the presence of Ancients was everywhere. We hiked and slept beneath their abandoned cliff dwellings, their pottery sherds, dried corncobs and painted walls evidence of their long-ago existence.
...Delectable food (Praise Be to Trader Joe's and Backpacker's Pantry.)
...Delightful conversation and companionship.

I can't recall a time in recent memory when I've been so completely "in the moment" as I was those three days in the Canyon. 
Hardly a thought of the outside world. 

Rather, my mind was completely focused on the trail... the next cairn... the canyon walls... the stars.... the good company of friends ...the incredible blessing of this quiet, soulful land.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

04.24.2012 ~ stowe, vermont 02

~ stowe, vermont, ii ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

The second of my new landscape series (Phase One) and another snowy Vermont scene.

This painting reveals the underscribing mentioned in my previous post. The scribing is especially apparent in the side wall of the barn:

 And here, in the early stages:

Some may find the scribing offputting, but I enjoy the surface tension and ambiguity it creates. The writing fragments beg questions that the landscape without writing would never raise.

I admit that with spring blossoming all around and the wave of summer lapping on every breeze, it's a bit hard to get excited about snow scenes.... 
Likely this will be the last time I visit winter for a while. Time to immerse myself in mild climes!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

04.17.2012 ~ new painting series kick off: stowe, vermont, i

~ stowe, vermont, i ~ oil and mixed media on panel ~ 12 x 24 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

Starting this week I'll be posting the beginnings of a new paintings series. The ultimate goal of this project is to unite my two painting passions: landscape with mixed media 'abstraction'.

The first phase of my process is to create a series of "traditional" landscape paintings (see the first one of the series, above: stowe, vermont, i). Once I've created these, the next phase will be to start abstracting the landscape in a second round of panels. I'm anticipating that the third phase will be to take what I've learned from the first two steps and work much larger. I have other ideas, too, for that phase, but I'll articulate them when I get there.

For now I am working on Phase One. A few simple parameters have developed as I've been working:

-- Each painting is long on the horizontal, measuring 12 x 24 inches (
proportion of height:width = 1:2). The support for each painting is a hard thin Ampersand Gessoboard panel, stained a warm brownish:

Ampersand gessoboard panel stained brown.

-- The painting starts with a very loose underpainting also in warm browns, and writing — or scribing, as I like to think of it — across the surface:

Loose underpainting and scribing for stowe, vermont, i by Dawn Chandler. Copyright Dawn Chandler 2012.

What am I scribing? Really, anything that's on my mind at the time.... thoughts.... dreams... 


Why do it?
Because I like it.

The act of writing my thoughts out clears my head before commencing to paint. And I like the idea of imbuing my paintings with this soulful, confessional act.

And then when I paint, sometimes my words bleed through. Landscape traditionalists may balk at that, but I love it. It's a little "surprise" in the surface of the painting, creating a tension with the depth of realisim.

Detail of scribing across the underpainting of stowe, vermont, i by Dawn Chandler. Copyright Dawn Chandler 2012

Below, details of the finished Phase One painting, stowe, vermont, i. No scribing is bleeding through much on this first painting; it's more prevalent in some of the others.

Detail of stowe, vermont, i by Dawn Chandler. Copyright Dawn Chandler 2012.

Another detail of stowe, vermont, i by Dawn Chandler. Copyright Dawn Chandler 2012.

Monday, April 09, 2012

04.09.2012 ~ still tethered

The little girl is me. I had never seen this picture before I found it last year in my parent's things. I remain a little bit astonished by it....the sweet innocence of this lovely child. How I'd like to wrap my arms around her and gently counsel and compassionately her on a few things.
I love the chunky ribbon of yarn in her hair, and the delicate way she is holding the flower stem.

To the right of her...the woman in white grew out of a photo of an anonymous woman from the turn of the last century. The photo happened to crop out her head, as the photographer was more focused on other things going on in the picture frame, her figure being secondary. I've made her prominent, elongating her white dress making it larger than life.
I didn't premeditate this painting, it just grew as the painting evolved, first with the image of the white dress, I think, and then the photo of me. The figure in the white dress reminds me of two art historical images:

That of Edith Minturn Stokes as portrayed by John Singer Sargent in his portrait Mr. & Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes:

and James Abbott McNeill Whistler's painting Symphony in White, No.1: The White Girl:

The string tethering the little girl to the woman in the white gown in my painting is from a tea bag. Ghosted in the background are fragments of Barbara Rockman's poem, per the theme of this series of paintings.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

04.07.2012 ~ one more

~ one more ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on panel ~ 8 x 8 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

I don't know who that woman is. People give me things from time to time, and one day a neighbor gave me a box of photographs. Among the staid portraits of stern anonymous people and pictures of Midwestern farm equipment was this image of this lovely woman full of quiet expression. I felt an immediate kinship to her

The coy little girl with the apron and sagging white tights is myself, c. 1968 or so.* Over her head floats an image of a nest with two eggs. Between the woman and the girl, a single, unlit match.

The text down the right-hand side of the panel was torn out of an 18th century book of sermons — a deteriorating book I found in a book-barn in New Hampshire a couple of decades ago. Passages of text from this book appears frequently in my collages. The panel behind the figure of the girl is a dried and pressed tea bag. Across is it is Barbara Rockman's poem scribed with a quill pen and sepia ink in my own hand.

This is the fourth of my small works for the the Odes & Offerings deconstructed show, on exhibit at the GVG Contemproary gallery at 202 Canyon Road here in Santa Fe.

* For the record, the apron is white, the dress is green; the shoes are red. Surely there's something telling in my early fashion sense?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

04.04.2012 ~ in dream

~ in dream ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on panel ~ 2012 ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

The third of my smaller works for Odes & Offerings. Here the image of my mother — young, newly wed, in a pensive moment in the Cloisters — captured by my father's camera. (I've used this image before, in my original painting for this series, "I Am a Plain Woman.") Above her sepia image, a weighty, rusted piece of metal, nearly black. Fragments of poetry paper her edges...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

04.03.2012 ~ at the improbable

~ at the improbable ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on panel ~ 8 x 8 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

The second of my smaller works to come out of the Odes & Offerings project. Here I've incorporated a photo of a favorite sculpture I took in Italy last autumn. On the left, a scan of an ink sketch I had done of aspens; ghosted in the back, some of the poetic text of Barbara Rockman that first inspired these works.

Monday, April 02, 2012

04.02.2012 ~ these hands

~ with these hands ~ by dawn chandler ~ mixed media on panel ~ 8 x 8 inches ~ copyright dawn chandler 2012 ~

The first of my secondary works grown out of the Odes & Offerings theme of incorporating the text of a Barbara Rockman poem. 
The first thing one surely notices with this painting is the dominant figure of the nude woman, raising her hand skyward. She is a sculpture I photographed some years ago. Behind her the picture plain is divided between light and dark (day and night?), with a warm, arid, mountainous landscape suggested on the left and a dark, nebulous passage on the right, out of which emerges a ghostly figure of a woman. Fading in and out of perception are fragments of Barbara Rockman's poem* among them I am a plain woman.....I mix paint....with these hands....

On the left are smaller barely discernible fragments of a different text: for joy....and omnipotent reign...comfort 

In the lower left, a faint golden nest with two sky blue eggs; below that, un chuchotement ~ "a whisper," in French in my father's handwriting, lifted from one of his hundreds of french flash cards. My father's handwriting appears in a second place in this work — In the upper left, a fragment of a wine bottle label from his cellar, with the date  the vintage went into his cellar written vertically along the left side.

By themselves, these fragments have no meaning to one another. But parsed together, they begin to suggest a relationship, a story... 



*Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe To Alfred Stieglitz Upon Seeing His Photograph of Her Hands, by Barbara Rockman