Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Triumvirate of Queens

This is the story of how the Three Queens came to be. The thing about painting is that it takes me on fantastical journeys both within and without. I have learned over time that the process seems to understand me better than I understand myself. I learn what I need to know by painting.  I have also learned to trust this process completely, it's a bit like getting in a boat and letting yourself drift with the river flow, being mindful that you don't get caught up in the rapids but also not controlling the boat more then is necessary to not tip over or crash along the way.

Back to the Queens. It all begins when I suddenly see an image amongst the thousands of photos in my studio. This time it was an ancient old oak tree and it suddenly jumped out of the pile of photos, luminous and wanting to be painted. I begin by deciding what size, this tree was insisting on being at least as tall as me so I chose a 60" high canvas. The larger the canvas the more gesture and movement that goes into the painting.

People are always asking me how long it takes to do a painting.
Like everything in art, there are no easy answers. Sometimes paintings arrive in a day and sometimes, years. This was one of those "bursts" that came out in a day! This tree literally painted itself while I held the paintbrushes and watched in amazement as she emerged onto the canvas. It is difficult to describe but the painting seems to come directly out of my own limbs and belly, it is as though that tree's body and my own are one when I paint. When I finished painting that day I felt powerful and strong, rooted and elated all at once. I went home on top of the world. I could actually taste the painting and my limbs could feel that tree's being right inside my bones. 

I happened to be listening to "King of Limbs" by Radiohead while I painted and so I thought I'd call the painting by the same name and then it occurred to me, not KING but QUEEN of Limbs and the painting answered with a resounding YES! Then, as usually happens two more powerful images of trees that I had photographed while on residency in Vermont of yellow birches and their twisted roots popped out at me. These were the other two queens that would emerge to make the Triumvirate of Queens: Queen of Limbs, Queen of Rocks, Queen of Roots. As the other two paintings evolved I grew ever more confident and felt a surge of hope as I always do when I feel connected to the REAL world of my own feral nature.

This is when I know I am painting what I was born to paint and it doesn't matter if anyone else likes it or not, it doesn't matter if it will sell or not. Those are not the reasons I paint, these trees are the reason I paint. These trees have something to say to the world and they use me, the humble painter to speak for them. I am honoured to have their voices empower me as they do. At the moment my life is all about my work. I have become fairly successful lately with the sales of my paintings but this is a double edged sword. I am grateful for the financial support and thrilled that people resonate with the work however it is also dangerous for the paintings. I start to feel pressure to paint what people expect of me, what will sell best, what will gain me approval and make my ego feel good. These trees have reassured me that I can stay grounded in my source and return to the roots, literally of my love of the wild forest.

Time to take the Queens out into the world. This means a trip south of the border; working with a broker, papers, filling in forms, spending money, loading paintings, scheduling meeting times, etc. All of which is so opposite the world of my studio and imagination, and at times very difficult for me just because of how my brain works. However once I was through customs and driving along the Saranac River towards Tupper Lake my spirit soared again. Ahhh, to be out and with the trees and river on such a beautiful day. It was a blaring blue sky day and there was enough time in my day to stop and soak up the beauty on several occasions. These moments feed my soul and are balm to my whole being.


Arrival at the Wild Center Muesum in Tupper Lake is always a joy for me. I love this creative and interactive museum. I was greeted, as I always am, with warmth and enthusiasm. There is no better place for the Three Queens then at The Wild Center where they will be viewed by thousands and thousands of people this summer in the exhibition "The Forest and the Trees". 

Here they are, in the midst of installation at the Wild Center. I can't wait to see the whole show once it is up and running. I will post more photos of that when I go back. 

"If we surrendered to Earth's intelligence, we could rise up, rooted like trees."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Post a Comment