By FRANCESKA ALEXANDER, MFA student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts program
This post was written as an assignment for Professor Cindy Shearer’s Aesthetics of Value course. In Aesthetics of Value, students explore their arts heritage and inquire into the values that guide their creative work.
Abstract painting has become a new artistic exploration for me. It embodies an immediate language of emotional, intuitive, and spiritual responsiveness. I have found the use of abstraction to be an ongoing meditation and, as contemplative practice, always unfolding. After many years of painting in representational styles, I stumbled upon a way to paint abstractly at the AbLab, an art ranch in the Sierra Foothills. Instantly, my perspectives of viewing and liberally using paint shifted.
The AbLab is entirely experimental. By changing the dilutions of paint, I change the viscosity, which in turn changes the way the paint moves and creates depths of field and color on the canvas. Deliberate brushwork and freestyle manipulations render textures, as colors merge or mix in beautiful ways. Images begin to evolve and forms surface, resembling faraway landscapes. Just like a volcano erupts or a tsunami dramatically breaks the tide, pools of color on the canvas work in a natural and spontaneous way, forming colorful mountains, valleys, and imaginative landforms.
I pay attention to details and observe the subtle shifts that can happen accidentally in this wild and free way of painting. Trust issues arise when the paint moves so quickly and I realize the paint is totally out of control. Then, I am nudged to “go with the flow,” watching structure break on the canvas and new possibilities begin. I respond intuitively as if inside a lucid conscious dream. I surrender to the painting whispers, the active muse of inspired listening. This dynamic encounter with color becomes a continuous interactive development. Each step in the process sets in motion hours of active layering. When the canvas is complete, I see where every color and stroke of hand was guided by liberation in the beauty before my eyes.
From this active intuitive process, the paintings evolved into an evolutionary dialogue between spirit and matter, between the sobering ecological crises and the vulnerable ways we personally search for peace. I use many overlaying colors to translate a symbolic wilderness and convey the discomfort at the intersection of ruptured change and forced growth. The results of grappling with this abstract perspective are deeply satisfying and have led me to the creation of the changing earth cycles, beginning with "Earth Dance," the first painting in the series and seed to my upcoming MFA project, "The Changing Planet ~ New Earth." With over a dozen paintings in the first series already formed, I offer them at the altar of hope and discovery in finding sustainable solutions for ourselves and the planet in these dramatically changing times.