I shop for this kind of hat. But I can’t find it, so I need to make it. And it “arrives” BECAUSE I want it. I’m open to it.
My paintings are wish fulfillments. (All art is wish fulfillment.)
The work in this recent series started this way: in the studio taking a painting break, I began looking through “visual resources”- my compost heap of art history books, nature photography, vintage postcards, National Enquirer mags (oh yes!), fashion books from the Victorian age/40’s/ 50’s. Noticed how the photograph of a wintry Niagara Falls on a postcard and an image from a Victorian dress echoed each other. (Sources are pictured to the left below.) Did a sketch to see how I could put them together, liked the results, and got hooked. See if you can find the resulting Niagara Falls dresscape amongst my other dresscapes on the site.
I do purposeful visual wandering now. Looking for the right puzzle pieces to interchange, swapping one part out for another. Like going to a flea market where some instinct guides you, some intent that isn’t always apparent when you first start selecting things and taking them with you. And like those handbags decorated with multi- colored telephone cords from the 50’s I was snagging… another story, but same deal. You like what’s happening, repeat the process, keep going and you have more purses, aka more art. This can add up to demonstrating visually what you like, a particular aesthetic, or point of view. I had no conscious intention of photographing these purses as though they were a bathing suit (ouch telephone wire! ).That subconscious aesthetic is just lurking everywhere!
The search for parts is playing bridge as well because to make the art I need to “remember the cards”, so I’m keeping selected visuals in mind while searching through others. Until I get a hunch about how to interchange visual elements from different sources – say, a model in a hat from an old Sears catalogue, and the photo of howler monkeys on a branch.
Reviewing several of my mashup images in a group gave me a clear idea of what I was instinctively creating. And it wasn’t a predetermined illustration of an idea. Since visual images have associations, each element of the visuals I chose brought remembrance, events, back stories. Politics, humor, the environment, art history, gender were all in my mix, along for the ride, contributing to the meaning. My passion for, and distress about the eroding condition of the natural environment were there.
“Howler Hat” is a modern day totem. Traditional totems merge animals and human in fantastical ways, honor the animal, and attempt to harness their power. In fact, Mayans used the howlers in their art, believing the monkeys to be protectors of the arts, especially of sculpture. But I didn’t know this until after the piece was finished, and I’d decided to research the monkeys. To make “Howler Hat” I had just looked throught images until l saw component parts that had promise, and followed the urge to merge!
My totemic fantasy is one of protection, an urge to protect the natural world that I revere, and to create a place of peaceful coexistence.
The improbability of the matchups I choose often makes me laugh, and that’s also part of my intent. I like that! What a relief. After all, the scale is impossible and the monkeys wouldn’t behave. Their howling sounds like an impending tornado and can travel for miles. Not good for social interaction or work mode in the hat. But, in the land of art all things are possible, and in making the image there is control where I have none. In the face of a world where I wish I could be a protector, it’s like a prayer.