Walking through stocked aisles at hardware stores feels like wandering around a giant art supply shop with huge containers of paint, brushes, all kinds of lumber to construct supports for canvas, and choices of nails, screws and glue too numerous to count. But it is merchandise I’m not familiar with, filling the shelves, stacked 15 feet high, that stimulates my imagination. Examining labels and reading directions on bottles and jars stirs my creative juices. And there’s a tool for everything!
Photo credit: Corporate Home Depot Newsroom
That’s why, one afternoon I was happy to accompany my husband to our local Home Depot in search for just the right tool needed for his current project. As we pulled into the parking lot a storm was brewing and we dashed inside to shop.
By the time we returned to our vehicle a downpour had come and gone, but the sky was lifting in a dramatic combination of peach, lavender and blue. I quickly pulled out my camera to record it for reference. Artists use photographs in various ways: I use them to recall the seed of an idea. In this particular case I wanted to remember how stunned I was at how the heavens had been divided diagonally with dramatic color.
Not too long after that day I used this photo to create a painting for an art exhibit with the theme A Moment in Time. It doesn’t capture quite what I saw that day; it took a different path. Instead of focusing on the colorful sky, I was moved to portray the condition of the horizon. Because my photo showed only dark, vague silhouettes I was on my own to imagine it. I added a circle of textured translucent rice paper rising from the earth. As I spread the glue around to adhere to the canvas, the fibers pulled loose from the fragile paper; I brushed them into the sky the way a tornado would tear apart stalks of corn from a field. Referencing the theme of the exhibit, I created a clock face, numbering the hours but not adding hands to tell time. For added structure I traced one of my favorite found objects, an arc shape I have used in many compositions.
My creative process took my seed of an idea to an “after the storm” place. After a storm blows through we survey the damage, inventorying what is left. Taking stock of what still stands. This painting makes me think of landscapes that have been devastated by war and crazy weather. The toll that is taken on humanity, the physical clean-up and rebuilding, the means for funding, the stamina…the will to begin again afterwards.
The finished painting was exhibited in 2019 at The Hoard Museum Gallery in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin along with the rest of the series for A Moment in Time.
Yesterday I pulled it from storage and hung it in our sunny kitchen in order to gather final thoughts for this essay. As my husband was eating soup at the table, he noticed how the noon sun cast an interesting light on it. When he pointed this out to me, I was struck by how it appeared as an opposing slant forming an X across the sky to cause a new balance to the composition.
2020 has been a rough year for all of us, for everyone around the world. So many struggles and losses. And the storm is not yet passed. Traditionally families come together on Thanksgiving Day to celebrate blessings of the past year. It seems surreal that we are presently being warned about the dangers of doing so because of Covid19. My hope is for a better year to come and the strength to rebuild afterwards with a balanced new perspective.