In my many years of drawing and painting from observation, I have learned that any object or view has a secret mirrored surface. You are closely observing the object but then suddenly you find that you are looking at yourself. You look out at the world, then down at the page, and even the simplest of sketches has the potential to reveal volumes about who you are and how you see. All that is required is your attention and presence in the moment.
The woods behind my house continually take on this kind of sheen. They are the background of my daily life, framed in large windows, on view from the kitchen, displayed in my studio, by the table where we eat, behind the sofa in the family room, bigger and better than the giant television that sometimes seems to dominate the room. The light is beautiful and in a slow steady state of change.
Sometimes I notice the woods briefly on a busy day, as if blurred outside the window of a car. Other times I sit and quietly watch the unfolding shapes of shadows and branches. The best view of the woods is from our deck, which has the feeling of a lofty treehouse. The backyard slopes sharply down the hill to the roots while the deck floats high above, level with the treetops. In the morning, the house casts a shadow over the lower half of the silvery gray trunks, while the upper branches are painted with a glorious golden light.
I created a series of paintings about the woods in 2008. Some of these paintings are now on view at Chroma Projects through the end of February. This series was a turning point for me, a turning inward. Once focused on observing and painting this view, I began to see less of the outside world and more of the reflection of my own inner landscape.
The woods became a place of quiet contemplation, where the observed world slowly fell away, and new doors opened into imaginary worlds. My husband likened this experience to that of the children in a C. S. Lewis novel: Peering deeply into the woods, I brushed past the leafy branches like mink coats in the magic wardrobe, emerging on the other side to discover strange new places in the world of my work. The Woods Series was followed by the Momentum Series which depicted an imaginary place that fully broke with the observed world.
Over the years my work has shifted back and forth between observed landscapes and imaginary worlds, but on some level they are all the same place. The woods are a special gateway for me, a door for coming home to myself again and again.