My December 2021 show at Blackfish Gallery was called ‘Corona Chronicle,’ and featured 46 drawings that I made during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you missed it, my son Chris has made a virtual tour of the exhibit (including my husband Michael’s part of the show, ‘Watercolors and Memorials’) that you can watch here.
The video is set to the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor (‘Choral,’ Op. 125). This specific recording is in the public domain and is available at https://musopen.org/.
My sister Lorena (a retired English professor) and I began to exchange tanka poems by email during the pandemic. I had never heard of the tanka when she sent me a lovely one she had written about the nightly cry of peacocks in the park by our childhood home. I quickly embraced the form of the 5-line tanka as a way to express my thoughts and observations succinctly. My daily walks provided much of the subject matter for the poems. I found myself surprisingly touched by such things as the ubiquitous face masks I saw casually abandoned in the street and the poignant signs that people post on utility poles to describe their lost pets (mostly cats).
‘Cabana Redux’ (2019), plus the artist. Photos and the artist’s outfit by Aaron Johanson.
‘Cabana Redux’ is the third version I’ve made of my ‘Cabana’ piece. The first version, ‘Cabana‘ (2012), was a tent-like installation woven together from pieces of painted canvas; viewers could walk inside it, giving them the experience of walking inside a painting. For the second version, I deconstructed the piece and rearranged its components into three rectangles that were installed superimposed in Blackfish Gallery’s Fishbowl 1 window. For this third version I wove the pieces back together into a single rectangle.
While ‘Cabana Redux’ was on exhibit at Blackfish in December of 2019, my friend and fellow Blackfish member Aaron Johanson had the idea of creating a black-and-white outfit inspired by the forms in the piece and then having me wear it in front of the piece. These two images are from the resulting photo shoot and show Aaron’s idea brought to life!
‘Cabana Redux’ measures 108″ x 84″. Acrylic on canvas.
‘Floating Fields’ and ‘New / Redux’ was a show that my husband, Michael Knutson, and I had at Blackfish Gallery in December 2019. If you didn’t get to see the show in person – or would like to see it again – this video gives you the chance to see it virtually. The video was made by my son Chris, and includes music by Moby (used with permission) that complements the colors, shapes, and textures of the visual works.
I call this piece ‘E Pluribus Unum’, and true to its name (‘from many, one’ in Latin), it is one American flag made from 104 separate masks – each of which I individually sewed. The piece was created for Blackfish Gallery’s October/November 2020 group show ‘Love Politik: One world, Indivisible‘.
The piece measures 38″ x 50.” Red, white, and blue cotton, elastic.
In 2010 I traveled in Turkey for several weeks. The richness of an unfamiliar culture, and particularly its colors and textures, left a vivid impression upon me. Following my trip to Turkey I began to work in an entirely new manner, which I have continued to the present. I arrange leftover, sometimes odd-shaped, pieces of canvas which I sew by hand into 3-dimensional constructions that hang on the wall. I stiffen each piece with gesso and acrylic paint, and then apply a richer surface of oil paint. These patterned works are loosely reminiscent of tapestries and weavings, but some also have come to resemble garments of various sorts, and thus may evoke a figurative presence.
Knotted Arum (2018). 36″ x 28″ x 5″. Oil on canvas.
Landscape 1 (2018). 48″ x 22″ x 5″. Oil on canvas.
Pelisse (2017). 42″ x 24″ x 4″. Oil on canvas.
Arabesque (2018). 64″ x 42″ x 7″. Oil on canvas.
Quiddity (2017). 38″ x 38″ x 4″. Oil on canvas.
Regalia 2 (2017). 58″ x 26″ x 4″. Oil on canvas.
Tribute to Gee’s Bend (2018). 49″ x 41″ x 4″. Oil on canvas.
Blue Scherzo (2018). 48″ x 32″ x 5″. Oil on canvas.
I work with pieces of bare canvas left over from other artists—–namely, the selvages and odd scraps that remain when traditional canvas-on-wooden stretchers are made. I find it satisfying in an ecological sense to use this fabric that would otherwise be thrown out, but these scraps also work as a collaboration of sorts: the forms I build are determined by what is given to me.
These current works are connected to my deep commitment to feminism. I greatly admire the handwork traditionally done by women in the past—–the sewing of garments and quilts, lace-making, weaving, etc. The fact that this work was not considered to be ‘art’, and was usually created anonymously strikes a chord with me too. To borrow from Virginia Woolf, the phrase “anonymous is a woman” has until fairly recent times been an appropriate description of the visual arts community. In utilizing the classic art materials of oil paint on canvas in combination with some of the traditional techniques of women’s creative handwork, I attempt to bridge this gap.
While recently reading the new biography of Leonardo da Vinci, I was struck by this declaration from his journals: “The first intention of the painter is to make a flat surface display a body as if modeled and separated from this plane.” I find myself working in an opposite vein by making the actual painting become the modeled object that separates itself from the plane of the wall.
‘Night Music’ is part of a series of sculptures made from found pieces of wood, which I wire together and paint. The first version of ‘Night Music’ appeared in Blackfish Gallery’s Fishbowl 1 window in February 2016; that version of the sculpture was painted white and displayed in front of a deep blue background. While I often recycle my stick sculptures by re-configuring the sticks into new forms, in this case I kept the three stick constructions intact but repainted them an ultramarine blue. The latest incarnation of ‘Night Music’ was displayed in the Fishbowl 1 window in April 2017.
My September 2016 show at Blackfish had to come down on October 1st, but for those of you who missed it, here is the second group of works from the show. The first five works appeared in my previous blog post.
Rococo (2016). 63″ x 42″ x 8″. Oil on canvas.
Semblance (2016). 56″ x 52″ x 6″. Oil on canvas.
I Fall to Pieces (2016). 43″ x 23″ x 2″. Oil on canvas.
Seraglio (2016). 32″ x 32″ x 5″. Oil on canvas.
Old Woman Blues (2016). 36″ x 50″ x 3″. Oil on canvas.
If you’re going to be in Portland during September 2016, please stop by Blackfish Gallery to see my current show, ‘Sewn Constructions’.
Recycling is a central part of the five works in the show – I use leftover scraps of canvas that other painters have discarded, which I then cut, shape and sew to create variations on the traditional format of oil-on-canvas works. These paintings depart from conventional representation of three-dimensionality on a flat surface; rather, they become three-dimensional objects that project out from the flatness of the wall.
I’ve always admired traditional handwork created (mostly) by women: quilts, weavings, knitted and sewn garments. These recent works follow the time-honored processes of reusing fabrics, piecing sections together, and hand-stitching them into place. I add decorative elements to the pieces – there are linear strips that resemble ribbons or cursive writing, and forms that are floral, an ironic reference to a still-prevalent sexist expectation that women should be pretty rather than powerful.
I’ve been creating sewn constructions for the past five years, and in these current works I’ve expanded my techniques of sculpturally shaping and composing the canvas segments. My palette has expanded too – I find oil paint to be very sensuous and I use it lushly to embellish the constructions, like embroidery or lace upon a garment.
Trousseau (2016). 38″ x 46″ x 6″. Oil on canvas.
Regalia (2016). 56″ x 53″ x 6″. Oil on canvas.
Mama Loved the Roses (2015). 38″ x 24″ x 3″. Oil on canvas.
Eden (2016). 50″ x 53″ x 6″. Oil on canvas.
Blue Lady Roses (2015). 20″ x 13″ x 2″. Oil on canvas.
‘Allegory’ is an installation piece that is appearing in Fishbowl 1 (one of the window spaces outside Blackfish Gallery) during the month of November.
The five human-sized figures are constructed of painted cottonwood twigs and branches connected with copper wire. The eccentric shapes that naturally occur in cottonwood are combined here with the ivory color of the paint to create a resemblance to bones. The three figures in the foreground are interacting with each other, with the movements of their bodies suggesting a Bruegel-like wedding dance. In contrast, the two figures behind them are static, and their helmet-like heads are reminiscent of the headgear worn by warriors and shamans in various traditional cultures.
Allegory (2014). Wood, acrylic paint, and copper wire.
Allegory (2014): detail. Wood, acrylic paint, and copper wire.