Palimpsest X 3

mixed media paintings on canvas, 36″ X 12″ each, currently on exhibit at Sebastopol Center for the Arts

With this current exhibition on art journaling I challenged myself to do a “painting” series that I would approach in the same way as an art journal page.  Then I had to figure out what I meant by that!  Adding words to the piece?  Making it personal, even intimate and relevant to my current life?  Approaching it playfully without conscious concern for making it “artistic”?    All of the above?

I started out in a way that would force me to proceed as in an art journal.  I drew my own figure from three different perspectives on the panels and then started collaging on pictures and text from my favorite antique book “Illustrated Journeys”.  Then I painted acrylic glazes and gesso texture over parts and sat down to write and see what would happen.  The following words spilled out and then I wrote them over and over on the panels until I had filled them with the writing.

I am in constant motion, a windmill, a propeller, at times a conveyor belt, which carries me on illustrated travels through time and space and sets me down along a riverbank or among the monks in a mountain hermitage.  I forget that I am a contemporary woman with freedom of travel and exploration.  I am a slave woman, an Abyssinian soldier galloping to war.  I land in places I cannot remember from geography class, in oceans so far away I have never before dreamed them till now when I contemplate pouring glazes of paint over their pictures, and drawing my likenesses to put me there, solidly, forever where my spirit lies unfettered by Time and Space.  I don’t want a self portrait of my varicosities unless they are the roots or lines on trees, or of my belly protruding, unless it is shot with a spear of rage at some injustice centuries ago that still flows in my veins and wrinkles my skin.  The map of my life is an old one which goes back before my birth.  It is inscribed somewhere in my features and those are the mysteries that I will paint now.

The title “Palimpsest” refers to this process of layering of words/images.  A definition of the word is “a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text”.  In these paintings some of the initial words are legible, but most became obscured by subsequent layers.

After writing the words in pen on the panels I was paralyzed for a while, waiting for some inner direction about what to do next, and feeling the pressure of making a “painting” happen.  Sigh.  Only the frustration with my own blankness and indecision and the looming deadline of the show propelled me to pick up the next brushload of paint.  Working on all three I moved around, painting here and there, trying to see connections, and always trying to “play” with whatever was happening in the pictures. I kept going back to the words I had written, which seemed more and more true the longer I painted, as though I were walking into a drama of my own creation which spanned centuries of time and took place around the world.

The first painting that started to come together was the middle one:

Palimpsest II

I had suddenly lost all desire to make an autobiographical self portrait and in several big strokes obliterated or obscured portions of the figure, then walked away to face it another day!  My husband came in the next day, and before I could hide the painting said, “Oh I really like that one.  Is it done?”  He always declares my paintings done way before I do (not that I ask him!)  Well, it wasn’t done yet, but at least it had moved along.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Palimpsest story!


One comment

  1. Susan,

    Your three mixed media canvases are just some of the best that I’ve admired
    online from your website. They draw you in . . . and leave the viewer caught up
    in the beauty and mystery of each piece.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your showcased works in Sebastopol.

    Thank you for sharing your inspiration and expertise.

    Best wishes always,
    Linda Way


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