Patricia Wheeler—Art Matters

Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018

I feel that art can be active, holding real power, not just metaphoric meaning. My painting practice has always included an element of ritual and deep listening. It serves as a space through which encounters with personal and collective energies coalesce. Living in a culture that lacks personal passage rituals, I paint to affect the world.

Journal NOTES: October/ November 2017

RESTORATION ECOLOGY *: In troubled times how do we restore ourselves?  This is what I am thinking about.

Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018

Among my most favorite things are the lidded box filled with small paintings on watercolor blocks  (with cold wax and acrylic ) and some of my handmade books and journals. I make them for just myself to process my life and stories and the emotions they carry. Some of the paintings will be framed as is and others are studies for larger works. They are fresh, loose and spontaneous. Some contain photo transfers, painted into and sketched over in sharp thin charcoal lines that I smear with wax. They are yummy. Letters and numbers are stenciled in red and black over images, to begin a dialogue. I think this year’s  classes will begin with these small works as a way of loosening up. Later in the week we’ll go into the larger compositions. I borrow text, excerpted from my journals, and join these words with images to begin the forgetting and retranscriptions, to abstract the stories of my life unfolding. This retelling always reveals new meaning. It’s how I know where I am! Right now I see that I am in the process of restoration. I am once again so alive… sharing adventures and work and love letters, rowing boats, island walks, kayaking on the full tides, laughing together with my lover late into the night after a strenuous paddle and a good meal at the cabin. Laughing over the tantrums of his wildly expressive 3 year old granddaughter who screams for the sheer pleasure of it. Watching him take her on his back and run as fast as he can in circles around his house, the girl shrieking in delight.  These days I will remember love.

Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018

Sometimes when I cannot get into the studio or it’s full of clutter and I want to paint, I set myself up at my kitchen counter, get out the brushes and knives, paint and wax and work on small squares of heavy watercolor papers in blocks (to hold them flat). When I am traveling and away from my studio I pack a small box with supplies of good paper (cold press, print paper or  heavy weight watercolor), plus stencils, xerox copies, citrasolve, a small bottle and various drawing tools, and acrylic paints (in a zip lock plastic bag). I place this collection in a basket or canvas bag and I am off….. By air or rowboat, I am transported with my studio in a box/basket, to another place and time,  ripe for painting with all the distractions left at home. My new surroundings inform my choice of color and subject matter. Journals come along too. I scratch or write excerpts from the journals into painted surfaces. Acrylics dry quickly in the open air so layers can happen fast. I add and subtract, using cold wax mixed directly with the paint, then  knife it onto the surface.  Any sharp tool can be used to scrape or write. The process is important, it’s where I discover things.  I make a lot of pages and on subsequent days add new color combinations scratching the wet surface to reveal the color now buried in a palimpsest way.

Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018
Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018

So what am I interested in this season?  WORDS as always… resilience, restoration, emergence, (borrowed from a close friend who thinks this way too), some borrowed from a book I am reading: reciprocity, imbrication, juxtaposition, ecology, mythology.  What emerges from all of  this is a new body of work, unconsciously achieved through observation, mistakes,  abstraction , painting over the ugly stuff.  From all of my senses, I take in fog and seaweed, the muffled sounds, imposing rocks that appear and disappear. A picnic table can become a studio! I don’t have to be at an artists’ residency (though they are very conducive to this type of drifting).  I can paint anywhere, with just that small canvas basket filled with good supplies and QUIET../ SOLITUDE and TIME FOR DRIFTING.

Out of all of this drifting I find a new course description for my classes, at least the concept. Painting memory as a way of holding opposition energies, to restore us to balance in troubled times, to integrate dark/light, release, surrender, restore. What is stored in your emotional body that prevents you from living fully alive, being present to this moment? My friend from the drawing department  at OCAC (Oregon College of Arts and Crafts) asks:  “What is your growing edge in your studio practice? What is exciting to you  right now? Something about your little boxes as ‘containing’ feels fresh to me.” So my immediate answer is: “Islands, as gateways to enchanted states of consciousness.”

Restoring my soul through all the senses. Alive colors taken from the Maine landscape. Mixing the colors. Nature’s palette here in Maine, islands, seaweed. Transition states of consciousness:  “…. as I cross over, by land or sea, I feel the shift.” Integration.

Patricia Wheeler, “Untitled”, acrylic, photo transfers, cold wax on watercolor block, 8”x8”, 2018

*Art as a form of RESTORATION ECOLOGY, the term borrowed from Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass