Words Matter

Standing in front of "Scarlet Firethorn" at my "Sea to Shining Sea Solo Exhibition" February 2020

Words Matter

I used to think artwork should stand on its own but how you describe your artwork can be equally important especially when there is an emotional connection. Without words, how can viewers fully relate to what I've created? How will they understand my process? It also forces me to explore my motivation and the choices I make; something I am not always comfortable with. Why did a particular subject or atmosphere resonate with me? What is the meaning of the elements that I choose for my compositions and why one color over another?

My Aha Moment

This was driven home last month in an email that I received after I had just sold a piece: "I meant to ask you what your inspiration was for the painting ....I just instinctively liked it but would also like to have the story or inspiration when you have a minute Thanks". Wow! The artwork actually started as 4 individual black ink monotypes that over a period of several months transformed into a mixed media artwork with added oil paint, origami paper, transparent celluloid and ribbon. After sending a detailed explanation along with in progress photos I received this follow up email: "So interesting to hear the whole story of this piece. I am really glad I asked. I will look at it again now with a different eye to the process."

The Backstory

This photo was taken in February at my "Sea to Shining Sea Solo Exhibition". I'm standing in front of a sold painting with the title "Scarlet Firethorn". And the backstory? I was touring Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West which is nestled in the desert foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale, AZ. I was struck by a delicate tree with red berries that I had never seen before. The sun was behind the tree creating intricate dancing shadows on the rooftop below. It reminded me of a Japanese cherry blossom woodblock print. Inspired to paint this I tried to figure out what kind of tree this was - I searched on google with no luck. Then I emailed the Frank Lloyd Wright foundation and they very helpfully responded: "The plant is Pyracantha, Pyracantha Coccinea. Grows in many climates. Very drought tolerant. White flowers, turn into berries that are orange in the fall and turn bright red by the Holidays." Knowing the kind of tree was important to me and informed my handling of the painting.

As someone who reads labels at galleries and museums I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize that an image is not enough - words really do matter! So now I am revamping my website to include documentation in addition to photos of my artwork. It's a lot of work and in some cases requires soul searching but ultimately will help you to better understand my inspiration and process. Tell me what you think - I'd love to hear your feedback.

Until next time,