UMVA Member Showcase: Michelle Leier, Sandy Olson, Amy Pollien, Ruth Sylmor

Michelle Leier

My paintings explore visual stimuli either from direct observation or from photographs and drawings made of scenes from my daily life. Lately I have been working on a series of still lifes which are contemplations of a group of objects I have in my studio. I had only planned to make one painting of these objects. However, I have discovered different views of it are intriguing to me for various reasons, so I am making several paintings from alternative views and perspectives. In the way a jazz musician can take a series of chords from a song and make an infinite variety of improvisations from it, I am finding that this still life affords me multiple opportunities for variation on a single theme. The more I come to understand the forms and patterns of light and shape in the set-up, the better I am able to improvise and play with making original compositions. By understanding the fundamentals of the visual stimuli, I can freely express myself by abstracting the most important elements, exaggerating some aspects, minimizing others, and changing still more .

Michelle Leier, “Green Still Life”, oil on panel, 12 x 9 inches, 2018, Jay York
Michelle Leier, “Blue Still Life”, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2017, Jay York

Sandy Olson

I have been working on The Resilience Project for about eight years. The latest installment is called simply The Map. It is scripted to document, in images and words, my thirty plus years living in rural Central Maine.

My studio practice had been erratic for years and I was unable to make this story meld cohesively. About a year ago I invited some of my favorite archetypes to join me in my working space and they definitely livened up the place.

At first the critters on sticks were so endearing that I became obsessed with making them, thinking maybe they were to become the centerpieces to the story I wanted to tell.  Eventually they settled into the background as I returned to my favorite complexity of line drawings, photo grids and words. My studio now has the layered look of a palimpsest landscape where I am comfortable creating.

Sandy Olson “Critters And Places” photograph
Sandy Olson “Icons in Cutouts and Lines” photograph
Sandy Olson “Ma Famille” photograph
Sandy Olson “Mapping Time And Place” photograph

Amy Pollien

My work has always revolved around still life compositions. In an effort to (literally) expand my horizons I’ve experimented over the past few years with painting plants where they grow, in the context of the garden landscape. This practice expanded the visual field and added a level of complexity that was difficult to achieve with arrangements and props in the studio. On a quest for the perfect still life painting, however, I was still not completely satisfied with the result.

Last Thanksgiving I went to London and spent most of my time in the National Gallery. I had the opportunity to study hundreds of still life paintings “in the flesh” and found myself fascinated by Dutch and Flemish work from the 14th to 16th centuries. The overflowing vases and anonymous backgrounds had never appealed to me in printed images , but the effect of standing in front of the collection was electric. The depth of field in a still life composition is generally quite shallow but the masters of this period managed to represent the universe in a spray of blossoms on a tabletop.

Since the trip I’ve been working toward understanding the Dutch Baroque period constructs and learning how to apply those ideas to the heaps of roses and pumpkins and apple blossoms that will soon be at hand from the garden. Maybe there will be a hermit crab with a basket of blossoms inspired by Balthasar van der Ast, or a bowl of colorful berries and pet birds from van Hulsdonck and George Flegel. I feel like there are decades of inspiration down this road and can’t wait to set up the paintings and get to work.

Pollien finds inspiration in this painting by Balthasar van der Ast
The Italian Vase, 2018, 24 x 18, oil on panel A large vase of coreopsis, cosmos, and zinnias in a traditional still life composition, work in progress
Honeysuckle and Matronalis, 2016, 36 x 24, oil on panel Composition in the garden, image courtesy of anonymous collector
Garden Studio Painting a set-up of fruit and vegetables with drapery

Ruth Sylmor

    “Photography is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life.”
                                                                           Henri Cartier-Bresson

Living in Paris during the long, cold, grey, windy winter of 2018, my photographs capture moments of  LA CRUE  when la Seine overflowed its banks by 5.84 meters.

My life, my daily photographic life, consists of meandering with my camera – seeing, composing, focusing, pressing the shutter, winding, rewinding, reloading, and knowing, as Cartier-Bresson also said, that “of course it’s all luck!”

Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Pont des Arts” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Ile de la Cite Bernard” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Quai St” silver print 14 x 11 inches
Ruth Sylmor “Crue de la Seine 2018. Ile de la Cite Bernard” silver print 14 x 11 inches