You often hear artists talk about giving "voices" to various people/things that usually go unheard. I am always aiming to do that--but not exactly.
My goal is to highlight what has always been in shadow. Hidden. Something that has always had a voice but didn't know how to use it in order for it to actually be heard in all its glory. Relief is found once they muster some courage to speak. I run into this pretty often with people that have come into my life over the years. They are anywhere from strangers I've just met, to young teenagers that I have taught and beyond. My husband (John) jokes that I have a sixth sense for when someone is hiding something--good or bad. Abundant with something, but the mystery still remains. Its almost like I can sniff it out before I am ever actually told of what they are holding back. Once they do express whatever it is they have been anticipating to tell someone, I just smile with an, "Ah, there you are!"
So, what does this all have to do with alleyways and fire-escapes? Not just any alleyway and fire-escape, mind you. To give you a little place setting, I work and spend a lot of time in a very historic part of downtown Cincinnati. It has so much history that spans from heartbreaking to exuberant. There are so many contrasts in this part of town, one can often feel confused while strolling around.
On one part of the block, there are new, state-of-the-art playgrounds and parks, on the other side are two neighbors screaming at each other in something that is a far cry from "friendly banter". Contrast. Award winning restaurants and starving veterans. Contrast. Million dollar homes and government housing. Contrast. A Mercedes Benz and a rickety bicycle. Contrast. All these things together become so normal that we don't even think about them anymore. They just become part of the back drop. Something you actually expect to see on this part of town.
We develop a sort of immunity to what is around us in way that can be very easy to dismiss. Until you actually stop to look around and take in what you are actually seeing versus what you have been conditioned to.
The dark alleyways posses so much grit in between the buildings that it seems it was there when the buildings were actually built in the first place. That doesn't seem out of place. That actually looks like it belongs. So what is the contrast here? It could be the fancy playground directly in front of it or the manicured mothers toting their children around to the new urban oasis. We try to make these things coincide but they are not always as seamless as we would like them to be.
This contrast is fascinating to me. I subconsciously bring my method of working into this realization. I will start by selecting an image with photograph of where I find these contrasts. I then start working with drawing materials such a charcoal and pencil to sketch out the angles and perspectives to obtain some accuracy of the image before painting. Once I collect all the information I need, I will then start on the fun part. Color and contrast. After working on this for several hours, (which can sometimes turn into days) I will need to give my brain and eyes a break.
I am usually working on two paintings simultaneously. While my brain needs this break, I will start with the abstract paintings. Color, shape, and contrast being the most important part of these works. It allows me to not have to think while painting. Instead, it allows me to be intuitive and use my instincts to complete a work. I can't help but wonder if these two methods of working are related.
Like I mentioned before about relieving the hidden subject from the shadows, I believe these "in between abstracts" are just as much a part of this body of work as the actual urban setting paintings are. In their own language, they are a visual representation of the person's spirit once they have realized they are heard and not abandoned to the dark alleys of our world . I aim for these paintings to be a token of victory through what the world tries to quiet.
"Where do you find inspiration for your work?"