Fun With Barn Paintings

Progress  on the latest painting continues.

The green stripes receding into the background are gradually filling up with what I hope can be taken for goldenrod.


“Devon With Goldenrod” in progress

A strange, contradictory experience occurs when reconstructing something in the natural world;  the harder one looks, the less one sees.  It’s as if concentration reveals less about whatever is out there and more about the biological limits of our way of seeing it.   The more intense the effort to visually pin something down, the more mysterious and impossible it becomes to do so.  In the end, I usually throw up my hands and opt for repetitive, symbolic forms stretched across the surface like swatches of fabric.

There came a point  in the process when I had to choose between continuing with goldenrod along the bottom or coming up with something else.


Devon With Goldenrod and Red Snake

I came up with something else.

The red might be a mistake but the snake is loosely modeled on Serpent Mound, a famous Native American earthwork constructed along a bluff in Southern Ohio.


Serpent Mound

I’ve always enjoyed knowing that Ohio contains this mysterious artifact and thought to paint it.   Including it forces the piece away from sentimental-barn-painting territory into something more honest and suitably strange.  I believe deeply that the ordinary is anything but, and visual dissonance expresses this.

It wasn’t until after I’d sketched everything out that I noticed an affinity between the snake and the “script Ohio” of the barn.   Well done, subconscious mind!


New Year, Old Obstacles

The new year has arrived, bringing with it the inevitable vow to lose weight and make more art.  A nice break from the usual routine is a renewed interest in sewing.  Young friend Becky Sterrett is marrying Arun Satgunasingam in India in March and has sweetly invited me to be part of the wedding.  This means eventually wrapping myself up in the saree she bought in Kuala Lumpur, but before that can happen, I must make a choli, the tight, bodice-clinging blouse which goes underneath.  The material is silk, with beautiful metal threads scattered throughout and much higher quality than anything I’ve worked on lately.  Heck, I haven’t made anything so complicated in over 20 years.  The only way to overcome anxiety was to turn the effort into prayer.  I’m taking my time, concentrating and wishing the couple well with every stitch.  It’s turned the project away from being a pain-in-the-you-know-what into a supremely relaxed pleasure.  It’s like doing a painting, only with a machine.


Homemade Choli in Process

Here is the progress so far.   Sarees often come with enough material woven onto one end to make a blouse to match.  This one was tacked onto the pallau, the fancy part which is thrown over the shoulder.  I don’t know how Indian tailors do it because I had a devil of a time eking out enough material to make the thing.  Figuring out how to best use the woven border proved to be an especially vexing task.  This solution was the best I could come up with.  I didn’t have enough border to decorate the back, but the front is coming along nicely.

I’ll wait to finish until just before the wedding.   I have high hopes of presenting a thinner version of myself when March rolls around.

In the meantime, I’ve started a new painting:  “Milking Devon With Goldenrod.”   Here’s the first round of under-painting.


“Milking Devon” With Goldenrod Under-painting

Conceptually, it’s a mash-up between “Horse in Kitchen” and “Lovers In Cornfield.”   I’ll use different views of goldenrod for each horizontal stripe, as in a quilt.  Hipster hubby helpfully pointed out that I’ve finally come around to doing a barn painting, to which I say “yes,” but with a twist.  This might be a good piece to submit to the Ohio State Fair.