Image and Abstraction:
Painted Gardens

I woke up this morning knowing I was going to paint all day. I looked out the window and saw the early morning light hitting the moss and indian pipes - or the daylilies - or the butterflies. Many things to do crowded my brain. I ignored them - except for watering the flowers. When I got going in the studio, I was mostly into the paint, shifting the close hues and values, trying to create light. Sometimes I slowed down to paint a flower, a leaf, a bird in great detail; other times just a gesture or the suggestion of the form was enough.

This summer my friend gave me a book about Emily Dickinson. She was as passionate about flowers and butterflies as I am and her poetry and letters are full of flower metaphors. Dickinson was an avid gardener, but loved ordinary flowers like daisies or woodland surprises like indian pipes as much as the ones she grew.

The Dandelion’s pallid Tube
Astonishes the Grass -
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas - ....

Emily Dickinson, 1885


Art inspires me as much as nature. I delight in a Chinese brush painting of a peony; a tiny painting by Martin Johnson Heade of orchids and a hummingbird; the delicacy and suggestiveness of Manet’s small late flower studies or Maria Sybille Merian’s botanical illustrations of the life cycle of butterflies. Abstraction, large scale, color and the movement of brush and paint are equally compelling. Willem de Kooning’s wild swoops of brush and vivid color; Joan Mitchell’s lyrical and passionate evocations of French landscape; Cy Twombly’s long vertical series of Seasons.

Seated daily meditation reminds me that nothing is permanent. Daylilies only bloom for one day. Paint in the process of making a painting drips down from a flower. I am grateful for the whole cycle - of flowers, birds and butterflies, ourselves, all beings, making paintings and offering them to be enjoyed by others.




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