06/01/2004: "My Artist Statement- FIRST DRAFT AND TOO LONG I KNOW!"
In Kindergarten one of my drawings won a blue ribbon at the county fair; after that, making art was all I wanted to do. At age eleven I began private lessons with a master watercolorist and that sealed the deal; I was hooked. But in my small hometown, art translated to realistic flowers and barns. Later, after winning a scholarship to an advanced placement art program in New York, I was exposed to paintings by Matisse, Chagall and Gauguin; I experienced public sculpture, performance art and installations…my idea of what constituted “art” changed forever.
However, the pace of life on the East Coast was not for me. I grew up watching the Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams and I wanted to be among the mountains and wildlife. At eighteen I was accepted into the Bachelor’s of Fine Arts program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. There I explored themes such as nuclear holocaust, the affects of technology on evolution, as well as body image and gender roles. I also began incorporating actual text into the imagery. I felt that my art had to be raw, painful, and full of obscure references to be taken seriously.
In my final year at UAA I completed a solo printmaking exhibit for my thesis project.
It was such a grueling process that it destroyed every ounce of enthusiasm I had for making art. After graduation I didn’t want to create anything intellectual ever again. I spent several years doing functional pottery and hand built clay sculpture. After awhile though, narrative and the human figure re-emerged as a dominant theme, as well as my passion for painting, particularly oil painting. Why? I could tell you many scholarly reasons but the true reason is the smell. Homesick, I once wandered the streets and canals of Venice for hours trying to find the source of the oil paint and solvents I could smell after taking a shortcut down an alley. Eventually I found a painter in his studio. We shared a cup of coffee and although we didn’t speak the same language, I know he recognized the look of love in my eyes as I deeply inhaled the toxic fumes.
I have also been asked repeatedly why I paint my figures such unrealistic colors. My father still can’t believe I spent so many years in college only to paint (in his opinion) worse than I did in high school. It started from a show where I was asked if I was making a statement by painting black women. I wasn’t, I was burnt out on politics and decided then to quit painting flesh tones all together and started painting vibrant fantastical colors so that race would not enter into the equation.
Just prior to moving to Juneau I was attending graduate school in Hawaii. There I was surrounded by intense tropical colors which I loved. Here in Southeast Alaska the color pallet is more monochromatic; surrounded by the green of the Tongass National forest and the perpetual gray sky, color has taken on a new significance for me; color has become the central component of my compositions and an element I truly crave.
For years I set the figures against a colorful yet nonobjective background which morphed slowly into an abstract landscape. Now the landscapes are even more apparent with the use of local plant life and recognizable settings. I have attempted to integrate the female form with the complimentary shapes of the mountains and plants. I also like that there is just a hint of magical realism creeping into my new work, in regards to scale. The narrative thread is also still present although I try to keep it ambiguous and let people bring their own imaginings.
Given today’s hot political climate I often feel guilty for not returning to my more subversive days, for not using my art as a tool to shine light on the world’s injustices. Then I remember that there is also power in beauty and in providing a momentary respite from reality. Hopefully these paintings will shine that kind of light. A lofty goal I know, but an artist can dream.
So, I *know* that it's too long, I just don't know what bits to cut. So, I'm up for suggestions. Tomorrow morning I'll be taking off for the rest of the week to a conference in Boise Idaho so I may or may not be able to post for a few days. Usually these things are pretty wired but you never know. Stacy, I left two pieces for the charity auction at my office at the university. It's in a red bag and has a sticky on the bay for you. They are already framed and ready to hang. I forgot to include the titles etc. so I'll just go ahead and post them here because I'm in a big hurry.
The first one is an acrylic painting called "Portrait of the artist Rick Quinones" and the second is called "On the Edge" and is graphite on paper. Don't worry about a minimum bid, just get whatever you can for them. Good luck with the opening, I'm sure it will be excellent.