Highlighting the creative processes by exhibiting artists’ first drafts, thoughts, and inspirations, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) presented an exhibition of sketchbooks titled First Traces, curated by Britta Konau from October 31 – December 20, 2008. The term “sketchbook” remained loosely defined, as these initial expressions can take the form of maquettes, sketches, digital files, set-ups, etc., and may not even be visual at all. Work did not have to be in book format, and selected artists were invited to also exhibit completed artwork alongside their “sketches.”
“This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to learn about artists’ creative processes. It illuminates the journey many artists make from first observations and initial ideas to finished artworks. The focus is not on material process, but rather on mental process as it can be traced visually and verbally. When artists first explore ideas for future projects or quickly record a scene they encounter, some of the freshest, most uncensored work evolves. This exhibition of first conceptions represents 86 visual artists, craft artists, furniture and jewelry makers, and other creative people working in a wide range of media from traditional sketchbooks to digital drawings. The artists have generously agreed to allow visitors to glimpse these first traces of inspiration; in fact, many sketchbooks may be handled and perused by visitors.” (Britta Konau)
Artists included: Susan Amons, Josefina Auslender, Dyan Berk, Nina Bohlen, Rush Brown, Sam Cady, Cole Caswell, Peter Chamberlain, Kate Cheney Chappell, Megan Chase, Avy Claire, Kenny Cole, Maury Colton, Stoney Conley, Alan Crichton, Rebecca Daugherty, Cynthia Davis, Scott Davis, Lois Dodd, Charles DuBack, Evelyn Dunphy, Ingrid Ellison, David Estey, Joshua Ferry, Blair Folts, Nancy Freeman, Samuel Gelber, Shelia Geoffrion, Jessica George, Gregory Miguel Gomez, Susan Groce, Naushon Hale, Katherine Harman Harding, Connie Hayes, Jennifer Hodges, Frances Hodsdon, Gail Hollenbeck, Emily Hopkins, Matt Hutton, Phyllis Janto, Pamela Johnson, Marcy Kagan, Jeff Kellar, Mark Kelly, Sarah Knock, Anne Krinsky, Judith Krischik, Nick Lamia, Frederick Lynch, Alan Magee, William B. Martin, Phil McBride, Ed Nadeau, Tim Nihoff, Clyde Paton, Kit Pike, Victoria Pittman, Carlo Pittore, Amy Pollien, Jill Poyourow, Peter Precourt, Svetlana Prudovskaya, Abbie Read, Beverly Rhoads, Marguerite Robichaux, Bill Ronalds, Björn Runquist, Abby Sadauckas, Kris Sader, Lee Silverton, Owen F. Smith, Mara Sprafkin, Mike Stiler, Cheryle St Onge, Barbara Sullivan, Gwendolyn Tatro, Walter Tisdale,Lynn Travis, Jacques Vesery, Patricia Wheeler, Lucy White, Deborah Winship, Nancy Wissemann-Widrig, Henry Wolyniec, Victoria Woollen-Danner, and SharonYates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Art as a form of RESTORATION ECOLOGY, the term borrowed from Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass