I have four paintings in a show titled ICELANDIA at Lotus Contemporary Art in Phoenix. All four paintings are inspired by my memories of Carbon Glacier on the northwest side of Mount Rainier. Carbon Glacier is the lowest elevation glacier in the contiguous U.S. …and in a period of ~ten years between ~1984 and ~1994 it had receded so far back that I hardly recognized it the last time I visited it.
I painted these specifically for the show, which is a very different approach for me with my abstract paintings. I don’t generally have a specific idea in mind when I begin a painting. I do sometimes have a feeling about where the inspiration is coming from, but nothing so direct as, “ok, this painting will be about a glacier I visited when I was ten years old”. An idea that specific usually emerges for me during, after, or very long after the work is finished.
My first few attempts to start with a concrete idea for the painting failed miserably. I very quickly fell into representational painting mode. I battled with the paint and my thoughts, between my abstract intentions and just wanting to paint a picture of ice. But at some point, I was able to loosen up and tap more into my feelings about the experience of seeing the glacier for the first time.
The first time I visited Carbon Glacier I saw Carbon River flowing out from the end of the glacier where there was an entrance to an ice cave. I walked inside. I remember I was so struck by its colors; the white fading to a pale translucent blue, then a deep blue, then at the back of the ice cave the blue turned almost purple. It was a magical and surreal experience. Ten years later when I returned, I thought at first it was gone. It was set way back from where it had been, there was no cave, it was just crumbling rock and ice where it met the river. My experience changed then. I wondered what happened to it. Where did its magical purple go? My feelings about it quickly become more about environmental change than about its beauty.
Once I settled more on my feelings of my experience of Carbon Glacier rather than on what it looked like the paintings emerged much more easily . It was an interesting experiment for me to approach my work in this way. I learned a lot about what drives my abstract work.
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You can view these works and the work of other artists on the subject of “ice” at the closing reception for ICELANDIA on December 18th from 6 to 9pm at Lotus Contemporary Art, 511 E Roosevelt in Phoenix.
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