At least for me it is. I resisted this for a long time, though. I think I was afraid that if I let it be too personal, it would not be taken seriously. So I detached myself from it, instead focusing on experimental landscapes that felt safe. I was a young woman, trying to be taken seriously (and trying to take myself seriously) while having babies and generally being overwhelmed. I love a lot of the work that came out of that time period (my mid twenties to early thirties)….. it’s just that it didn’t have that much to do with what was actually going on in my life. I was full time with kids, and all of the craziness and immediacy that ensues, and didn’t have time to be out photographing and sketching for afternoons, or to come back home and create the large landscapes that I longed to continue with. Finally, as Julia Cameron would say, the well went dry. My paintings felt empty and overworked….. the painter’s equivalent of writer’s block. It was like chewing on cardboard.
Then I stumbled on a book that tripped me out. It was Spilling Open by Sabrina Ward Harrison.
She’s written/painted a few books since then, but that first one is still my favorite. It is artistically and visually stunning, but what really got me was how personal it is. It just shot right through me. This was new to me- the idea that good art could be personal and feminine, and raw, and just plain tell the truth. That I didn’t need to distance myself from my experience, and add several layers of hazy intellectualism, in order to make a painting. It was a new concept, that when I come to the canvas, I am enough.
So then I started asking myself new questions… like if I could paint anything, what would I paint? If I could use any medium I wanted, what would I use? I know this sounds silly- like why in the world wouldn’t I be asking myself those questions before? But I had not let myself think this way in a long time, and it was new. It has really changed my painting. And my attitude. Nowadays, I can’t wait to paint. The resistance I used to feel (you know- that gut churning feeling that procrastination brings on) just isn’t there.
And so much work has flowed from those questions. The dress series, to begin with, and the nests, and this blog. And I’m finding that if I let my life and desires lead me, the complexity of meaning is still there. Really, so much of desire is universal. And even a dogged kind of intellectualism tags along behind, offering explanations for the symbolism in my paintings. I like that the explanations don’t come first, though. The painting comes first.
I started with dresses. I think I’ll end with them, too…..
For more about my dress series visit my website.