Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Bonnie, Gros Morne"

“I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality. I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say 
... in paint.” ~Georgia O'Keefe

And what is there to say with the paint? Well, take "Bonnie, Gros Morne" for example. This painting, 24"x48", oil on canvas, is another one of the group I have completed for my upcoming show on portraits of Newfoundland in November here in Ontario. I will provide details at the bottom of this entry.  

I traveled to Newfoundland with the intent of opening myself up to the land and those that live there, in all of their facets and permutations, ready to store away whatever impressions it made. I did not want to limit myself to the figure. Conversely, I did not want to become myopic in looking at rugged coastline after rugged coastline. It is ironic that even panoramas can illicit tunnel vision sometimes. I sought to find a bridge between the people and the place, because, as I have mentioned before, the two are inextricably bound to one another. In fact, it stands to reason that there is no separation at all; that the inhabitants of any land are OF that land: spiritually, physically, emotionally. Why else do so many feel the tug of their homeland, despite being away from it for years, decades, a lifetime? It is because it is in our bones, whether we like it or not. It is a small voice that stays within us and nowhere that we travel can replace it.  

Newfoundlanders, and East Coasters in general,  are like the sea. They are faithful, open, generous, powerful, unforgettable. When I traveled across the top of the island to visit Gros Morne National Park, I opened my mind to all of the possibilities that might become paintings.  Gros Morne is sublime, truly. It is just as people describe it. Long stretches of winding road that bisect towering cliffs, gales to knock you off your feet, mountains, beaches, nature all around you, pure and unfiltered. I had my little map to explain where the various trails and areas of the park were located, and, after heading up the road in Rocky Harbour, I came to Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse, where a large lighthouse sits atop a rocky cliff. As I approached the lighthouse I was greeted by a lovely red-haired park employee named Bonnie. I asked a bit about the history, the topography and where there might be trails to hike along in the vicinity, and all the while I was thinking. In my my mind while I asked the questions I thought "she is a perfect representation of the park itself", I must paint her. Thus I summoned some courage and gave her my spiel: I was a painter, I would like to take some shots of her to make into a painting and would she mind posing for a few? I could tell she was rather shy but quite amenable to my suggestion and so she stood where she was, in the doorway, a wonderful thing to paint, with the flagpole and the sea out behind her. I asked her to be natural, to stand as she would normally stand. Artifice is quickly spotted in paintings I find. I like models to be themselves, and no one else. I don't fuss or primp and minimally rearrange (unless there is an odd shape created by clothing or whatnot).

I wanted this painting to be horizontal yet have many vertical lines that it would cut across. I saw this orientation in my mind as I shot the reference and saw the completed painting that very day. It was just a matter of completing it. The multi-coloured flags that you can see on the flagpole in the background are used to send messages to sailors out at sea, a visual morse code if you will. 

My objective with this piece was to show that people, no matter their job, are connected with where they live. Bonnie is just as much a part of Newfoundland as any fisherman out on the waves...she is not what you would probably first think of when you think of people in Newfoundland...but that is precisely why I wanted to capture her there. Every person's life is a story, and I was compelled to capture a piece of hers for a brief time. 

"I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art
 that anybody could ever want to own."~Andy Warhol

My solo exhibition of Newfoundland paintings is fast approaching! I hope you can make it out to the show. Here are the details:

Portraits Of Newfoundland
November 5-22nd, 2009
Abbozzo Gallery, Oakville, Ontario
Opening Reception November 6th, 7-10pm

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