Step, Pause, Step

The stairs leading to our attic are being replaced, necessitating nearly a full week away from the studio. I’m always surprised by the hole left in my life when these forced time outs occur. Art has become a daily practice and a pre-condition for mental and spiritual health. Without access to art, I find myself at loose ends, roaming the house like a ghost and waiting for its return. Now that I have the drafting table back again, all sorts of things have been spilling from its surface.

I’ve been stockpiling small pieces for a while: some for shows I know I’ll be entering later in the year and some for the upcoming featured artist slot slated for February of 2020 at 3060 Gallery.

“St. Uke” by Lynda McClanahan

Two things are already completed for the Ohio Art League’s Thumb Box show which occurs every November. Thumbox is the only Art League show into which members are automatically accepted and I enter every year.

“Virgin With Ukelele” by Lynda McClanahan

I hate to be rushed and nearly always do these ahead but this year seems particularly early. I’ve had the intuition that I’ll need the space to do other things when the deadline rolls around.

I’ve also been re-visiting images from long ago sold paintings which retain psychological resonance or are just plain easy to sell.

“Heart Hand” by Lynda McClanahan

I’ve done at least six versions of this henna-inspired hand over the years and they always fly off the wall. The sign painters enamel I use really lends itself to fine lines and shows its strength in paintings like these. I’ve always been attracted to making things which act as a good luck charm or house blessing. It’s like praying for people you don’t even know.

“Lady With Buckeyes” In Process

“Lady With Buckeyes” is another example of an old image which has bubbled up to the surface. One of my visual preoccupations is affirming the broad range of people who make up our citizenry. This painting is a timely reminder that not all of us who belong to this land look the same. Who would even want it to be?

“Nude With Kangaroo” by Lynda McClanahan In Process

The other piece on the drafting table is a continuation of the naked-ladies-on-animals series. Sharon Weiss of Sharon Weiss Gallery once counseled that success in art depends on finding what works and then doing it. These ladies often sell even before the opening of a show so I’m following Sharon’s advice. I sketched it out months ago but hadn’t started due to a neuroto-doubt-attack (this is too weird, everyone’s laughing at me, people will be offended, blah, blah, blah). Now that the project is actually under weigh however, I find the whole idea delightful. Go figure.

There’s a rhythm to life and there’s a rhythm to the way art projects present and unfold. Step, pause, step, pause might feel jerky and uneven, but viewed as a whole, it’s just another way of walking.

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Subconscious Impulses and Free Will

It’s widely assumed that artistic ideas arise from an ocean of possibilities in a free, spontaneous, unfettered way. Perhaps the initial impulse to make something is free of inner constraints, but I often wonder about the rest of it. Every painting requires an array of decisions which are thrilling and fun to make, but the way they’re made probably owes more to well-worn grooves in the psyche than to anything resembling free will. The ley lines of ones personal psychology seldom become evident, but once they do, they’re hard to ignore.

Source Photo for “Two Ladies”

I started out with this edgy but sweet little Persian Miniature, collected many years ago and promptly stuffed away in a file. It’s not unusual to find Eastern hetero-lovers gazing longingly into one another’s eyes, but two ladies doing the same thing while offering wine to each other is definitely unusual. Perhaps this is what the ladies of the harem got up to, or perhaps just what the artist hoped they did. A recent studio visit by Lisa McLymont and Cat Sheridan shook the image loose from memory and prompted a quick rummage through the files. At long last, I experienced a strong push to work something up.

“Two Ladies” by Lynda McClanahan In process

I used nearly everything from the original painting to make my own. The figures, headgear, bolster pillow and position of the hands are all pretty much the same as in the original. I opted to stray away from the peeping tom voyeurism of the Persian version (the original seems to be an inadvertent peek at secret goings on seen through an open window). This meant figuring out what to do about the rest of the bodies, a problem solved by one cross-legged figure and one in kneeling pose. I used the same configuration in an old piece entitled “In Love With the World” from the Red Woman series. It has the advantage of putting both figures at eye level without abandoning the lower half of the painting to a boringly long expanse of legs. It worked once, so I figured it would work again.

“In Love With the World” by Lynda McClanahan

After spending time with Lisa and Cat, I knew I wanted one dark skinned and one light skinned lady, but the decision as to which should be which came immediately and with no thought. Ditto for the clothing. The jacket worn by the lighter woman is based on what Cat wore on her visit, the rest is made up.

“Two Ladies” by Lynda McClanahan in Process

I wanted a contrast between the two women, which led to one femme and one less-femme figure, but I wonder about this. Is the lady on the left clothed in billowy trousers with a sweet pink top just for contrast, or did I put her in them for reasons not quite known to myself? Who offers and who receives? Does it matter?

I am struggling with a sketch for another work requiring similar decisions. The question as to whether I am capable of choosing freely is an open one.

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