More thoughts on “meaning”

Orthographic Rule, 24 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, ©2010 Deidre Adams

While considering the comments regarding my last post on the topic of meaning, it dawned on me that I never did post my final thesis statement written for my BFA exhibition, although I did go on about it at length. While my focus has become somewhat more broad in the latest work, much of what I said is still applicable, so it’s a good follow-up to my last post.

Deidre Adams

Plane of Persistence

BFA Thesis Statement

Minutes, days, months, years — the perpetual cycle of time and the seasons both creates and destroys; it both hides and reveals. As man seeks to build, nature seeks to reclaim. Plane of Persistence captures the essence of the seductive surfaces created by this unpredictable, uncontrollable process. Abstract in form, each of my paintings is a personal meditation using the formal elements of visual language, specifically line, shape, color, scale, and balance. Texture is a primary focus, and I add marks and washes of color in layers, building a literal record of all the stages in the process. Language is evident but reduced to its essence, communicating only the need for obsessive mark-making. The visual nature of the work, displaying aesthetics of decay and decomposition, is my intuitive response to a society becoming ever more preoccupied with the manufactured and the mass-produced, the over-loaded and over-consumed.

Plane of Persistence makes reference to time and transformation, specifically to the ways in which surfaces are altered by external forces. Oxidation, cracks, watermarks, scratches and scrawls made by the human hand — these are the vestiges of change that inspire my process. My method of layering and my system of mark-making emulate the process of natural transformation. Organic in personality, my vocabulary of marks consists of dots, dashes, lines, or circles, or may sometimes appear to be a secret language that’s familiar, yet remains unintelligible. I work in an intuitive process of personal discovery, first placing objects and shapes on the surface, then using these as a catalyst for response. Elements are added in layers as I continuously adjust the composition to balance harmony and chaos. Mindful of the picture plane, I work to maintain tension between flatness and depth. Textural elements added to the surface intensify this spatial ambiguity while serving as focal points within the composition.

I find inspiration in Eastern philosophy and the accompanying approaches to art-making, specifically Zen ideas of the “empty” or “open” mind, of mindful awareness, which emphasize trusting in the process while leaving one open to new creative possibilities. Also important is the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which stresses the value of finding beauty in the imperfect and the impermanent, while accepting the natural cycle of life, decay, and death.

Plane of Persistence pays homage to forces greater than myself, while the working process allows me to find a quiet place within. Even as the decisions I make while painting are an attempt to control the result, there is still an element of chance that makes the outcome unpredictable, much like life itself. Despite all our efforts to conquer nature and the elements, we are still subject to forces we cannot control.

Disclaimer: While this was written for an academic situation and I would never write anything this long and formal for any situation I can envision now, I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself when I got it done.

Orthographic Rule (detail), ©2010 Deidre Adams
2017-10-15T16:16:06+00:00 December 22nd, 2010|Painting|2 Comments

Thoughts on “meaning”

Theoretical Density, 24 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, ©2010 Deidre Adams

Even with a rather full plate of graphic design work in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been very focused on getting some paintings done. I’ve settled into a routine: Wake up, go into the studio and contemplate what I did the day before, then put on some more layers. Then, while those are drying, go downstairs, get my coffee & cereal, and do design work for a few hours. Then maybe exercise on those days I’m not successful in talking myself out of it, and then after lunch, reward myself with studio time. The paradox for me is that the busier I am, the more I’m able to concentrate in the studio. If I have nothing much else going on, I tend to procrastinate and waste time on the computer instead of staying focused.

I’ve been feeling energized and excited about my work. I have lots of new paintings that I’ll be posting in the coming weeks. Now that I’m out of school, I’m momentarily free of being forced to say what my work is about, and this is liberating. I can just do whatever I like, continuing to explore and discover new things about how the paints and mediums and tools work, developing an intimate understanding of what it is I like to see in my own work in regard to form and process.

Theoretical Density (detail), ©2010 Deidre Adams

However, I belong to a Yahoo group of artists where the topic of meaning in art seems to recur on a regular basis. There are always those who say adamantly that a work of art has to have some kind of meaning, or it’s not truly art. I don’t agree with this myself, at least not in the sense that I think it’s intended. For me, a visceral response to a work of art comes primarily through my physical experience of it, and for purposes of simplicity, I’m going to say that’s visual, since that’s the kind of art I work with. If I don’t find myself engaging with a painting or an art quilt or a sculpture on a visual level, then the meaning behind it is automatically rendered irrelevant for me.

Of course, everyone experiences art differently, and this can be very personal for some. I’m curious to know what you think about this. If you disagree, please tell me. (By the way, Robert Genn of The Painter’s Keys wrote an interesting take on this in his newsletter, under the topic “The Bigger Questions.”)

I have a lot of ideas that go through my mind when I’m working. I’ve been reading and thinking about various aspects of physics, biology, and linguistics. There are lots of possibilities for context. Is it important to you as the viewer to know specifically what I had in mind when you see one of my paintings? Or can you be satisfied to experience it on a visual level, free to make your own associations?

2017-10-15T16:16:07+00:00 December 18th, 2010|Art|11 Comments

Homage to Diebenkorn

Sidewalk (Homage to Diebenkorn), 38 x 38 inches, acrylic on canvas, ©2009 Deidre Adams

This painting recently came back home to me from a temporary exhibition at the Colorado State Capitol, in the office of the Colorado State Speaker of the House, Terrance Carroll. Along with the work of other Metro art students, Sidewalk was one of two of mine chosen by the Speaker for display at the Capitol. Back in April, I posted a photo of the other one here. Sidewalk was done for an assignment in my Painting IV class. We were supposed to do a painting in the style of one of our favorite artists, but make it our own. I chose Richard Diebenkorn. There are many reasons I’m drawn to his work, but perhaps one of the strongest is an affinity I feel for the work he did while he was in Albuquerque, my home town. The colors and shapes speak to me of something I can’t name, but having lived there for the first 21 years of my life, is a part of me as surely as my own skin.

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled (Albuquerque), 55 x 35 inches, 1951.

Richard Diebenkorn, Albuquerque, 38 x 56 inches, 1951.

The divisions of the space remind me of my beloved walls, and the colors of this second painting must surely be inspired by adobe, ubiquitous in New Mexico. I love the use of line with the bold, flat areas of color. While Diebenkorn is better known for his later work, especially the Ocean Park series, I find his earlier work more interesting. It has a freedom and movement not seen in his work of the 60s and 70s.

Richard Diebenkorn, Sausalito, 1949.

More of his New Mexico works can be seen here, and in the book, Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico.

With Sidewalk, I wanted to try bringing some texture into the work. I was experimenting with adding joint compound and texture gels to the paint.

Sidewalk (Homage to Diebenkorn), detail, ©2009 Deidre Adams

I was working from a photo I had taken earlier, not specifically for the purpose of turning it into a painting, but I just liked it.

Bicycle Rack, ©2008 Deidre Adams

At the MCA Denver, the upper section of the building juts out from the lower section. The surface of the overhang is a reflective metal in which you can see reflected a bicycle rack on the sidewalk outside. I’ve always loved this image for its strange combination of familiarity and ambiguity.

2017-10-15T16:16:07+00:00 December 15th, 2010|Influences, Painting|Comments Off on Homage to Diebenkorn