light and shadow
He was a beautiful corpse. That phrase keeps popping up in my mind. I think it’s the first line of my book. The book that’s inside me that I need to write.
I keep painting about him, hinting, being ambiguous, hoping others will connect with my paintings because they are slightly vague and more universally appealing, and at the same time including specific details so the people who knew him and loved him will recognize that my work is about him.
My book will be very specific. It will probably be described as heart wrenchingly tragic but sweetly beautiful. Certain people will probably disapprove and want me to keep quiet. But there will come a time when that swirl of feelings, visions, emotions leap out of me and into an organized pattern of words that tell the story.
In the meantime, I’ll keep painting. Now it’s his leather jacket. There’s still a cigarette butt in the pocket.
A work in progress….
Sometimes you feel that dark dreadful something in your gut eating away at your insides, scratching to get out, threatening to scream…
Maybe it’s just Friday.
Once I fell in love with a beautiful young man, under a blue moon. Long blond hair like silk, and bright green eyes so clear, that saw me, that understood. When he held me there was this warmth, like our hearts connected, even through skin, bones, muscle. One time I went away for the weekend to see if he’d notice I was gone.
I was highly influenced by the work of abstract expressionists such as Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and particularly Hans Hofmann. Hofmann’s no-nonsense lifestyle (He was very focused and devoted to his work and his teaching, dedicated to his wife, and not clutched in the grips of addiction and alcoholism–He was one of the lucky ones.) proves that you don’t have to be a tortured and troubled soul in order to create excellent work.
Although my work did not look directly like Hofmann’s, I was greatly influenced in the way that I allowed the energy to flow through my paintings and worked to guide it with compelling composition, my work was much darker than Hofmann’s–literally and metaphorically.
I collected books about Hofmann and spent hours admiring his work, mesmerized in front of his paintings in museums, and studying his philosophies on the making of a picture. I imagined how wonderful it would have been learning from Hofmann, studying in his Provincetown studio, being one of the attentive students watching him demonstrate technique in one of the black and white photos that immortalize him.
Very shortly after I met Jeff (my late fiancé and utter soul mate) he wanted to introduce me to one of his most cherished friends. This woman was an accomplished abstract painter and Jeff thought we’d have a lot in common. And, of course, we did. We were kindred spirits with similar painting styles and ways of existing in this world. As it turns out, she studied under a woman who studied directly under Hans Hofmann! Fate, kizmet, the universe showing you that you’re doing exactly what you were made to be doing, all that jazz…I discovered a direct line from my most admired inspiration, or it discovered me. It felt magical!
Previously I painted strictly abstract works directed by emotion and energy, my desire to touch a magical place, or to intentionally bring light into my world. Now I have a profound affinity for things–preserving them, allowing them to tell us their stories; they find their way into dramatic still life pictures. I incorporate abstract elements into my still life works at times and still paint purely abstract works at other times.
“Before returning to college, Kelly had a self taught career as an abstract painter and worked and exhibited her paintings in several downtown Greensboro settings. These paintings are powerful and energetic and about light and darkness. One of her challenges as a painter is to incorporate the energy of her abstract paintings into her still life paintings. Since her graduation with a BFA in Painting from Guilford, she has continued to paint in a similar vein to her thesis but with more humor and invention.”
–Adele Wayman, H. Curt and Patricia S. Hege Professor of Art, Emeritus
What began as a hurried trudge through yet another reading assignment for last semester’s art history class turned into an enjoyable experience, an essay that embodies several of the ideas that shape my world. It was Junichiro Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows.
I enjoy Tanizaki’s poetic almost rambling style and the rich images he creates with words (perhaps that’s due in part to Seidensticker’s translation.) Many phrases struck me so significantly that I’m compelled to quote them. His ideas of inhabitation, full descriptions of traditional Japanese architecture, music, paper, pottery, and jade, etc. are worth consideration.
Tanizaki describes Japanese aesthetic preferences, the elegance of age, the glow of grime, the beauty of Japanese lacquerware with its “colors built up on countless layers of darkness” and silverware and metal with dark spoke patina, “the tarnish so patiently waited for,” and the traditional Japanese reverence for shadows and compares them to Western preferences such as the desire to drive out as many shadows as possible.
As a painter who has explored light and shadow for some time, I really appreciate Tanizaki’s explorations in shadows and darkness. His description “how the gold leaf of a sliding door or screen will pick up a distant glimmer from the garden, then suddenly send forth an ethereal glow, a faint golden light cast into the enveloping darkness” captures something I strive to show in my painting. His ideas that “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates” and we “create a kind of beauty in the shadows we have made in out-of-the-way places” give words to the concepts I’ve been working with.
I identify with Tanizaki’s humble, Buddhist sensibility: “we Orientals tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent.” I also battle the “evils of excessive illumination” (how fluorescent light alters the beauty of things) and I lament the loss of trees for the sake of building more highways, retail locations etc. “To snatch away from us even the darkness beneath trees that stand deep in the forest is the most heartless of crimes” exemplifies how I feel about the unnecessary removal of so many trees I see around us.
Give it a read and let me know what you think!