Acrylic, ink, paper collage on canvas. 11″h x 14″w.
I started this post weeks ago, but then a big dumb much-resented interruption came along and blew up my life for six weeks. So let me begin again.
Not sure what motivated me to pull this then-unfinished canvas out of the incubation box last year. Originally it’d gotten some blocks and stripes in phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, and raw umber, and a few marks in black acrylic and ink. I’d added just a few other shapes, leaving a lot of white space. And that’s where it had stalled. Lovely color, but no heart, no muscle.
On seeing it again I immediately had impulse to collage it. I think it was when I pulled out that middle blue-and-black shape — it definitely felt it belonged. But the big gold flattened disc on the lower left got glued down first. Then the blue shape found its position, followed by the big brick-colored shape over the gold disc. On the right side, many many things happened before the final configuration was found. (And I will note, this is the first time I used rice paper, which added interesting texture and dimension to some of the white areas.)
The feeling of a procession grew steadily. I think it started with that blue-and-black shape, which when lined up along the bottom had strong forward direction. The composition took on a kind of Mardi Gras feel for me. Like a line of glorious empty suits in a parade. Led by the oversized brick-colored shape with its blocky vermilion head, looking like it’s running off stage left. And the part that took the longest to resolve, the candle-like figure on the right seeming wrapped in a glowing mantle and topped by a cross between a bishop’s miter and a flame.
They quite gripped me, this procession. Whether they are mocking or sincere, the figures seem a great deal more about the power of their vestments and vestitures than they are any obligation that comes with these trappings. Rather than the emperor that has no clothes, these are the clothes, perhaps, that have no emperor.
Anyway, the complexity and personality of the piece were compelling for me, and satisfying. Some of it was the underlying structure of horizontals and verticals created with the original stripes and blocks – not something I usually work with though I’m very attracted to them. Since this piece was completed I’ve been exploring more grid structure in my collages, learning about what’s actually attracting me. Also at play: saturated colors contrasted with muted, sending shapes forward and back, and creating a scene without losing the flatness of the picture plane.
FInal note: I have a piece in the Mid-Mod show at Desert Art Center for Modernism Week, if you happen to be in Palm Springs for the fun! Feb 17-28, 10 am-4 pm.