Bell Poem No. 16

"Bell Poem No. 16" - Carraher 2021

Bell Poem No. 16
2021.  Acrylic on canvas. 20 x 10 in.

I’ve finally gotten more photographing done and will be posting some catch-ups.  This piece was completed in January.  It went off in yet another new direction for the Bell Poems, which I like.  Again, what they have in common is that they begin as a large-brush gesture in black acrylic on white, on a 20 x 10-inch canvas.  So a lot can end up coming out of that category.  This one is particularly pleasing to me.  Lyrical. 

Ollas

"Olla #7 (for Juana leaving)" - Carraher 2019

Olla #7 (for Juana leaving)
2019.  Acrylic on canvas. 10 x 8 in.

My sister spent years living and traveling in Mexico.  She was a dancer and musician especially focused on fandango and son jarocho, the folk forms of the Veracruz region.  Mexican arts and culture were central to her life.   She collected artisanal works as she traveled, both because of her personal love of the historical forms and also as a way to support and promote indigenous artists.

When she died, my brother and I sorted through her belongings which included many ceramics, especially those of that ancient form, the round, humble olla,  She had examples of the colorful colonial talavera style, as well as a range of black or earth-colored pots of more Native origin.

Some of these ollas made their way home with me.

Around this same time I started experimenting with acrylics.

"Olla #4" - Carraher 2018

Olla #4
2018.  Acrylic on foamboard. 8 x 6 in.

The ollas made a good, simple subject for still lifes, but I’m never able to stick with that form for long and after just a couple I was free-handing and abstracting them.  These two small studies were done on scraps of foamboard I had sitting around the studio, and involved palette knife as well as brush.

"Olla #5" = Carraher 2018

Olla #5
2018.  Acrylic on foamboard. 6 x 8 in.

A year after my sister’s passing I began a small series of ollas on canvas in her memory; the first of them is at the top of this post.  They all used essentially the same palette and technique.  After laying down an orange ground I made a loose free-hand drawing, surrounding it with the blue and incising with the back end of the brush.

"Olla #8 (for Juana leaving)" - Carraher 2019

Olla #8 (for Juana leaving)
2019.  Acrylic on canvas.  10 x 8 in.

While she was in hospice my brother and I took turns staying with her during the night, sleeping on the floor of her one room.  Above me the shelves were full of ceramics and books about the art and history of Mexico.  And next to me on the floor, her favorite jarana in its case and, in a basket, several other jaranas that she would lend to her students – all instruments made by compadres in Mexico.

She was silent that last week, in a morphine dream, far away, her body getting lighter and lighter.  The daffodils she had planted were blooming all around the garden, and I would bring them into the room.  The daffodil yellow found its way into the last of the ollas I painted, for the day after her leaving:

"Olla #11 (for Juana leaving)" - Carraher 2019

Olla #11 (for Juana leaving)
2019.  Acrylic on canvas.  10 x 8 in.

Vaya con dios, mi hermana.

A New Day

 

"Prayer Flag (Indigo)" - Carraher 2020

Prayer Flag (Indigo)
2020.  Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 12 in. 

The approval of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act yesterday by the Senate virtually assures its final passage.  To me it feels like, finally, an embrace of the job that needed to be done a year ago – the essential duty that was shirked at best and actively opposed at worst by the last administration.   

In the interim, we lost half a million Americans to the pandemic.  Many of them, I am certain, would not have died if federal leadership had done their job last year. 

So today I post a Prayer Flag to remember those lost and to celebrate the new day and new direction that has begun.  May the vile dereliction that led me to create the Plague Faces never torture this nation again. 

Pause Point

"Pause Point" - Carraher 2021

Pause Point
January 2021.  Acrylic on canvas. 14 x 14 in.

This work also is painted over an old image, this time without a lot of texture but resulting in a faintly warm, unevenly white surface that has its own intrigue.  I began the figure improvisation with the burnt sienna, then the black, followed by a lot of looking and eventually revisions in black, or white, and more looking.  I’m very happy with its final balance and proportion, and the richness of the white flush with variations in value and temperature.  Very different than working on a perfect white surface.  All these different white surfaces have their attractions, but the distinctions among them carry increasing significance for me.

So much to learn.  Lifetimes’ worth.

A Collage

 

"Jul11" - Carraher 2019

Jul11
2019.  Acrylic and collage on wood panel. 12 x 12 in.

Haven’t been posting because I’ve been painting and not feeling like switching to the talking-about-it channel.  I have several new works but haven’t been able to settle down to signing and photographing them. 

This is a collage from 2019, done on a cradled wood panel.  The smoothness and solidity of wood panels are so different from canvas and provoke different moves from me.  The materials here include the green handmade paper, a bit of resume paper, the linear piece of my precious vintage construction paper in a dusty rose, and a disk of matte photo paper painted red.  The red netting is, indeed, plastic produce netting from the supermarket.  It was gratifyingly easy to shape and glue down. 

I enjoy making collages and always feel I’m about to make more, though I rarely actually do.  That may change someday.  I hope so, as they are a distinct channel with results I don’t get any other way.  I think perhaps because I usually base my paintings on line, but the collages are much more about shape. 

Anyway, I like this one. 

Re-routes

"Untitled (12 20)" - Carraher 2020

Damastes
December 2020.  Acrylic and collage on canvas. 11 x 14 in.

From the three I started around the same time, last October.  I had quite a different idea in mind at first, and played around with some colored pieces with really unsatisfying results.  I ended up cutting them up and here they landed.  This was much more the feeling I was going for originally, but not through the route I was expecting.  The collage is deli paper painted with cadmium yellow medium acrylic, so it has a slight translucency which I liked.

I’m playing around with some similar ideas in the studio right now, and I have to say it’s not working out well.  Lightning never strikes in the same place twice.

Satisfactions

"Untitled (1 5 21)" - Carraher 2021

Untitled (1 5 21)
January 2021.  Acrylic on canvas. 11 x 14 in.

I really love this painting.  I finished it maybe five weeks ago, but I began it months before that, in 2020.  It started with just the scaffolding of the black line, as my pieces so often do, and that part went quickly.  But I looked at it for a long time before deciding on my next moves.  It then fell into place just click-click-click, with no fussing.

I actually started three canvases in almost the same way at that same time, and they all resolved quite differently; I’ll post the other two sometime soon.

Anyway, the straight-ahead orange and yellow with the pastel turquoise please me, as does the handling of the small yellow figure at the bottom right and its connection to its uncolored echo in the upper mid left.  Simple elements in balanced yet restless relation.  Altogether abstract and yet mysteriously familiar, pleasurably resonant of something that actually doesn’t exist.  This satisfies me.

Virtual Show

"Aquaria No. 6" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 6.
2020.  Acrylic and ink on wood panel. 8 x 10 in.

I haven’t been exhibiting work for almost a year, either in-person or on-line.  Covid obviously has interfered with gallery showing.  And I’ve never been a fan of digital exhibition. 

The estimable Twentynine Palms Gallery, however, has now put up their first solely on-line show, for their volunteers, and I do have a piece from the Plague Faces collection in it.  The work is for sale, so do consider checking it out and supporting this historic gallery that has been, like so many, struggling to survive the epidemic. 

Above:  one of the Aquaria series, which have slowed down but not, I think, stopped entirely. This one is unusual in that it is horizontally oriented, and I’ve come to like it especially. 

Axis

"Axis" - Carraher 2001

Axis
2001.  Pastel on sandpaper, 8 x 7-3/8 in.

Axis is a small work that has remained important to me.  It dates from many years ago, when I was still exploring what pastels could do.  The surface was much affected by the use of spray fixative – a substance that I eventually came to mostly avoid, but whose modifying properties I have also at times found to be intriguing.  The ultimate surface is difficult to accurately reproduce digitally, as is the color, which ranges from green to orange.

I’m not able to work in the studio for a few days or be focused on painting, but this piece has always been a touchstone for me.  I’m always able to reach it, even when I can’t reach much else.

Bell Poems, Expanding

"Bell Poem No. 11" - Carraher 2020

Bell Poem No. 11
October 2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 20 x 10 in.

I haven’t posted about the Bell Poems in a while, but I haven’t stopped creating them.  I wasn’t sure when I began just where they were going, and if they were ultimately going to comprise a true body of work.  By early last fall I’d decided they were indeed all part of a collection that held together – if, through nothing else, that they all began with a large calligraphic gesture in black on white, on a canvas of 20 x 10 inches (or 10 x 20 – orientation is not a fixed attribute of this group).  Nonetheless, they’ve proved to be of flexible character beyond that common beginning.  Some, in truth, I did not designate as a bell poem at all at first, they just seemed too different.  But I’ve given up on that.  I think their origin dictates the class.  

No. 11 above is a bit of a throwback in style to an early example, Bell Poem No. 2.  In this case, though, I pushed further in not stopping with a single layer of colored stain, but rather went over the first layer of quinacridone rose with another layer of a medium green, which gives the surface vibrancy.  

But things are not stopping there.  A snapshot of the three latest on the studio wall: 

Bell Poems on wall

More detail on these to come, once I’m sure they’re finished and they’re properly photographed.  But, briefly, the furthest left followed an early course much like No. 11 above; the middle piece will probably remain black and white like several other of the poems; and the painting on the right goes off the regular course completely, about which more later.  But I think it belongs anyway.  And that feels right. 

I’m beginning to believe that this will go on for a while.  The elongated format and the large black brush work on white inspires me.  That just seems to be the fact.