A LOVE STORY
I first met Paint in Ms. Huff's sixth grade class at Brentwood Elementary School. Both my mother and my grandmother had had what they called "dalliances" with Paint, and I could sense, even as a child, that my attraction was serious and perhaps even dangerous. But infatuation is beguiling, so we continued a flirtation through the 50's, and then in the 60's I realized that this looked a lot like love. In 1970, after I had completed a master's degree in Anglo-American Intellectual History, I finally conquered my fear and made a lasting and full-time commitment to paint.
PHYSICAL FIRST LOVE
Initially my enchantment was with the pure physical materiality of Paint; how it could ooze and goosh, flex, bend, smooth, blend, scrunch up or flow. And its colors were so handsome, so intriguing, and capable of infinite expressive nuance. In turn, paint appreciated my reverence for its history, and, I suspect, began to even like the way I learned to manipulate it. It responded to my devotion by teaching me to dance, showing me how to move together between a physical reality that remains itself but at the same time can refer to something else.
INTIMACY INCLUDES BOTH INTENTION AND ACCIDENT
As the physical dimension of our love developed and our intimacy deepened, we began to create a relationship that had more to do with mutuality and balance. This was not a matter of happy choice for me--my tendency is to want to control. But Paint has the wisdom of ages and is, by its very nature, masterful in the art of expression. Slowly I learned that if I could first clarify my intention, then I could allow the "other" to enter, to become an integral part of the process, and we could then be truly intimate. In our intimacy, my intention began to find a balance in Paint's élan, in the unexpected. Together, we began to explore a deeper truth, to create a profound synergistic partnership.
TENSION AND BALANCE AS FORMAL ISSUES
The issues that have come up for us repeatedly over the years have to do mostly with tension and balance. The formal issues of the relationship of line to form, of surface to deep space, of drawing to color, of structure to mark-making have been a kind of basso continuo, sometimes more in the forefront, sometimes muted but still present. Our work in the 1970's and early 1980's demonstrates these concerns.
REPRESENTATION AND ABSTRACTION,
THE SUCCESS AND VALUE OF FAILURE
Our more heated or emotional struggles have come up over questions about the balance between representation and abstraction, between what is real and what is illusion. We began to address these questions in a series of palm trees, beginning with Abstract Tree, Real Paint in 1985. The palm tree series then developed to include issues of the tension between exterior and interior concerns, between societal and personal suffering. For a time in the 1990's we collaborated with other artists, a painter (see Visual Correspondence #19) and two musicians, to try to define the role of the visual experience and to expand communication in sight and sound. The collaborations were set up as conversations without words and were successful both in terms of the work and in providing the public an access to the process of making abstract art. Our principal desire, to mitigate the isolation and loneliness of the individual studio, was not realized. But it was in the failure that we learned a deep appreciation for the fecund field of solitude.
HEAD AND HEART
And then, calling upon both the head and the heart, including both intention and spontaneity, we began the series of the past five years. Red Shadows was a series that celebrated the beauty of common objects. Blind Sight was a combination of painting while seeing and drawing blind, with eyes closed, in order to explore an object through the sense of touch. Chairs connected us to the past by using an object to represent a person that person's history, or our feelings about the person.
CONTENT AND PROCESS,
A WEDDING IN THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION
In the last two series, Paint and I have seen the process become the content. In the series using the image of a backbone, strength and supple movement, the major elements of the image, became part of life's experience. In Meditation, we began with lavish wild strokes of bright color and energy and then slowly, through glazing many layers of color, Paint quieted the surface until a small focus in a large field became the center of attention, the anchor, the meditation. Our common vision, then, is expressed in both content and form, a western vision of an ancient eastern practice, appropriate to our place in time and within the Pacific Rim.
I am passionate about Paint. It may seem frivolous to talk about one's vocation as a love story, but love is what attracts us and moves us. And my relationship with Paint is a perfectly sustaining, satisfying and enriching testimony to the truth of loveand the love of truth. It's a lot of fun, too.