Thursday, March 5, 2020

art: the language of waves

Happy New Year! It's about time to share what I've been up to in the studio this past year. It feels a little funny sharing a post full of summertime photos right now when it's barely above freezing outside, but these are what inspired my latest body of artwork. (It also allowed me to fall down a rabbit hole of photos from when it the days were so long and it was so warm and my baby was so small, like how is that possible, time-please-slow-down small... anyway.)

"The Language of Waves", a collection of 12 mixed media paintings, is a serene, ethereal and multi-layered exploration of the sea, its colors and movement, the relics of seafaring and what lies beneath.

Diving into this series was personal and introspective. I grew up in a waterfront Seattle neighborhood full of little beaches and marinas. Our gang of grade-school girls spent summers wading fully clothed into the cold water, exploring under the piers and rocks at low tide, and collecting seaweed and mussels for our imaginary beach restaurants and beauty parlors (looking back, this is kind of gross, but there are hundred-dollar seaweed face creams out there now so maybe we were on to something?) In high school I spent weekends out on the misty Washington coast, roaming up and down miles-long flat beaches, playing chicken with the tides and camping in the car. I took up surfing for a few years and moved to an island in Georgia when the opportunity to live seaside fell in my lap. I love so much about the ocean in all its forms, and how it can form us.

When Mike and I started dating in college he took me out on his family's little sailboat, and I found myself holding the jib line in one hand and a beer in the other while Mike sprang around the deck doing whatever it was that successfully maneuvered us under a bridge, past buoys, lobster pots and much bigger boats, and eventually into a nearby cove all on the strength of the winds and waves. A decade later I'm still happy to sit in the sun and follow instructions, though the past two years have been with a baby along for the ride.

Maddie took to boat life right away, sleeping soundly below deck at night, completely unfazed by salt spray and sometimes rough seas that send me into a panicky seasickness. She is a coastal girl through and through, so that's where we've been spending time this past year. New motherhood means I'm taking a break from solo road trips and traveling alone but there's plenty of inspiration right here: I watch my toddler see things I love for the first time and wonder what she thinks, what sparks her interest... the blueness of shallow sunlit water? The capricious sparkles and feathery licks of foam as waves swirl around us? Or most likely the birds and boats that pop sporadically in and out of her view (as most things do when you are just two feet tall.) What intrinsic details do we overlook in our favorite things when we get so used to enjoying them?

Back in my studio I pieced together the imagery of our days on the water, my own experiences, and the flotsam and jetsam of coastal paper material decades or centuries old.

I paint what I like, and what I like most about the ocean is that it is an ongoing story of contradictions: beautiful but dangerous, graceful yet bullish. Delicately sparkling ripples concealing powerfully defiant currents. Dependable tides rolling in on haphazard waves. A following sea that tips us sideways then gently floats us into protected coves. Among all this, my little family bobbing in a little boat on the surface, as seafaring folk have done on the waves around us for centuries, with the leftover tide charts and fishing guides and nautical maps as fleeting evidence. My goal in these paintings (as in all my work) is to put the sea's ever-changing imagery atop my own experiences and others' ephemeral nautical history. Below my photos of the sea's surface, the edges of time-worn nautical charts evoke the rough textures of piers, cliffs and driftwood, while scrapes and splatters of Payne's Grey and Raw Umber paint evoke the briny shades of the New England deep.

And one of my favorites, which I created specifically to fit over a small couch or a king size bed. And then brought it home for, you know, scientific testing. 

It's cat-approved.

Most of these paintings have sold but a few remain in my online shop. Stop by to see available work in person in my studio during First Friday Open Studios and SoWa Art Walk.

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