THE BRIGHTNESS OF LIGHT
A friend recently wrote to me saying Georgia O’Keefe’s Shell and Old Shingle VI, reminded her of my clayscape photography. When I looked at this 1926 oil on canvas painting for the first time ever I was taken aback myself – two of my own images immediately came to mind. When I showed them to my friend she wrote back, “both of these look like the Georgia O’Keefe painting.” You can see a picture of her painting on the St. Louis Art Museum's website: https://www.slam.org/collection/objects/10406/
To be in O’Keefe’s artistic company, one of the most significant artists of the 20th century, if only by coincidence, is humbling. Though decades separate me from O’Keefe, I feel a kindred artist connection to her way of seeing light. She once wrote,“My first memory is of light – the brightness of light – light all around.” For me, light is my portal to another world where forms of clay blossom.
KINDRED ARTISTS OF LIGHT
The light and shadows that transform my clay sculptures into new dimensions has became an extension of my ceramics. The imagery comes from all stages of the work that reveal the different textures of the clay as it changes from greenware to bone dry to bisqued and smoke fired. One of the early images of this work, Plato’s Cave, was included in my 2012 exhibit “Light from the Window.”
When I look through the camera into a sculpture’s interior I see motifs beyond my imagination – enigmatic shapes, at times reminiscent of landscape and figure, that only materialize in the sunlight. I still remember the exhilaration that swept over me when I first discovered these forms secreted away within my sculptures waiting to be exposed. It felt as though I had been transported to another realm – as though a secret portal had opened up.
PAINT, CLAY AND FORM
I see shaping clay in a similar light as painting. O’Keefe wrote, “The subject matter of a painting should never obscure its form and color, which are its real thematic contents.” Though my imagery is at times interpreted as conveying a sensual nature, it is as incidental to me as it was to O’Keefe. Form is what I seek always.
O’Keefe wanted to distance her flower paintings from the bodily image references when she wrote, “Nobody sees a flower... it is so small.… So I said to myself – I'll paint what I see – what the flower is to me, but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it … and when you took time... you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don't.”
GEORGIA ON MY MIND
Sometimes I even see hints of O’Keefe’s animal skulls and bone paintings in my clayscape photography – is it simply a stroke of serendipity? Perhaps Georgia is on my mind more than I realize.