I was a painter in the Midwest in the early 2000s. I listened to gritty music in gritty venues, and made work that was a study in browns, rubbed and stained and scratched back. Looking at the wide expanses of empty farm fields during the long winters, observed, as they were, by a high gray sky, and bordered by thin leafless tree-lines, I painted big dirty landscapes with seeds under the surface. I painted ripples and riffles in the sky– diagrams and flocks of harmonizing birds. Among other things. But at that moment, right after graduate school, color was a secondary concern. Zack and I were married, then, without children, and we took a vacation trip to San Francisco. There, I was totally romanced– swept off my feet– by the brash use of color. I saw lots of things, but especially memorable was a show by Chris Johanson:
From that trip on, I have not left color behind. I’m rereading Kandinsky’s “Concerning the Spiritual in Art,” in which he declares,
“Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.”
Kandinsky’s view of color and especially synesthesia are idiosyncratic, but I completely relate to that sensitivity. Color has such a pull on me that it is almost ecstatic sometimes, almost nauseating other times. Color is, to put it dramatically, one of my favorite things on earth. But those two paintings above… those were, if you can believe this, a big leap. I’m in the Northwest, after all, not the relatively-speaking sunny coast cities of California, where houses are painted pink or teal on every block. For the last few years, I’ve been inviting color into my paintings in discreet geometries stretched over neutral washes, conjoining vivid hues to staid gray graphite, keeping color in its place. So. These strong handed greens and pinks were a departure for me, and a really satisfying one.