Art has helped me transcend all major transitions in my life, especially through the loss that accompanies death and change. I have worked in a variety of mediums (oil, Chinese brush painting, ceramics, porcelain & sculpture), but for the past 5 years, I have found solace painting watercolors of monumental sculptures. I feel compelled to give life to these silent and unmoving figures of stone and metal as a tribute to their strength. These monuments often stand as lone guardians of our precious loves and testaments to forgotten sacrifices. They stand unchanged when all we know is threatened, compromised, or destroyed.
I chose the name, “Angle of repose,” an engineering term for calculating the stability of a vessel, for my current series since I have discovered my own sure and certain footing through life’s transitions as reflected in my art.
The first stone figure that I painted was a spontaneous and almost involuntary experience. Not long after my mother-in-law passed away in 2003, I needed to visit her home to oversee some repairs. It was the first time I’d been back since her death, and I didn’t look forward to sitting in her empty home filled with memories. Hours passed without my being aware as the painted figure came to life, leaving me awed at the amount of life embodied in a weathered stone figure still for so long.
A few months later, I drove by an old German cemetery in central Texas and found myself drawn to stop the car and explore. The figures, six to seven feet tall and sculpted of marble, have become irresistible subjects for my art. I now live in Washington, DC, and I find myself amidst a wealth of inspiring monuments and statues.
I work in watercolor, an unforgiving medium (as is loss). I enjoy the use of water as a color itself as well as the ethereal quality revealed in the white of the paper. Choosing a fluid medium (watercolor) to represent solid mass is a paradox. Scale has added an additional challenge but has brought more reality to my figures. I often use hot press paper which allows me to stain the entire surface of the sheet and then lift color, providing an opportunity to contrast whites with darker pigments, thus allowing a positive image to emerge from the negative field; finding the mystery within. Weather etches a monument’s surface as its canvas with lichen, erosion, mildew and oxidation. The motionlessness statues challenge me to find a narrative through light, angle, space and their aging surface.
Human life may be transitory, but together, the statues and I, face the constant friction of change while resolving to remain strong and calm. I owe them the tribute of my canvas, as one way of thanking them for their healing balm.