I believe in the power of extended looking and suspended thinking as a means to discover things that might otherwise go unnoticed. I believe in the cumulative effects of small actions. The longer I look, the more I see and my “all-day” plein-air paintings have become documents of a real-time process: the accumulation of fleeting moments, the experience of the day.
My formal painting concerns have led me to use the conservative landscape as my subject and traditional plein-air painting as my process, in my attempts to reconcile the abstract nature of painting with its representational role. From a distance, I draw the viewer into what is first perceived as a dense but conventional space. Up close, however, the images break down; the lush, gestural paint marks, squeezed-out paint patches and areas of raw canvas help, instead, to reinforce the 2-D character of abstract painting as both an activity and an end-product.
My most recent paintings are the “Cumulative Nature” and “Hyperbolic Nature” series which are done, on-site, at various locations across the country. These series represent the first groups of large-scale paintings that I produced over the course of the entire day, in a wet-on-wet, cumulative painting manner rather than over multiple half-day sessions as I had been doing before. This seemingly subtle shift was the result of my desiring more, rather than less, change in light and colors on my subject and thus placing more of an emphasis on the “performative” nature of my on-site painting practice. I find the passing of time and the changing of light to be essential and welcome elements in the creation of my works. While painting, I continuously focus in and out at various depths. As the light changes over time, different features become highlighted, come to my attention, and are recorded on the canvas. This method achieves an expanded sense of space and time in my work by evoking more than is naturally seen at a single glance. Since I am integrating many moments, my process is more like that of an actor who knows her characters (color/space/shape) and script (changing light) and uses each performance to discover another nuance.
In a virtualized world, one could consider perceptual plein-air painting to be an act of defiance. As passé as it may seem to some, my current postmodern plein-air painting practice is both relevant and potent to me. I believe that the very act of making and viewing perceptually based, plein-air painting invites discourse on our own ability to have a meaningful, even sublime experience of nature today. As I continue to work in and with nature, I think about what Thoreau said: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” There is a similar imperative and urgency about my paintings. There is a strong sense in my works that nature is intoxicatingly near and yet unreachable… just out of one’s grasp. Nature won’t settle down, be passive, or ever fully reveal itself. But, at the same time, it will offer us more than we seek. I can only hope my paintings can do the same.