FEMININE NATURE

September 14 – October 19, 2012

  • Susan Bradley
  • Ann Devine
  • Jenni Freidman
  • Kathi Packer
  • Patricia Weise

At the heart of my current work is Apis mellifica, the honeybee and its culture.

Humans and bees have a mythical relationship dating since prehistoric times as depicted in drawings on the walls of Arana Cave in Spain of humans gathering honey with bees flying
about. My first encounter with a wild hive, an organic labial shape, took my breath away.
It left me in one of those rare moments of grace when there are no words. It inspired me to
create two human shaped, traditional skep derived, sculptures that I visualize within a larger installation of many similar shaped sculptures varying in size and generalized shape. I place
yellow footprints on the floor in front of the woven sculptures echoing bee dance designs, reminiscent of old dance lessons creating another link between humans and bees; of dance
and communication. Footprints serve as a metaphor of network and a sense of place,
direction and communal activity. The materials and techniques I use for my sculptures are
taken from the traditional constructive methods of old fashioned skeps; the domed woven structures bees were kept in before the invention of the commercial boxes, or “supers” in use today. Combining the craft of older and gentler bee keeping apparatus with human form recalls once more the long intertwining history of human and bee culture. The sculptures also represent the outer shell, the form, the “hive” in which souls reside as inspired by the spiritual element of honey bees as described in innumerable documents and seen in countless artifacts from through-out the ages.

My large bee dance drawings depict the profound way bees communicate the location of food through movement or “dance”. Keen and extensive observation has lead to this understanding, primarily thru Dr. Karl Von Frisch’s “most painstaking, ingenious, unflagging work.” When drawing the large bee dance shapes I use the span of both arms, repeating the shape over and over; repetition creates a rhythm, an obsessive dance, and the drawing takes on this energy. I invite viewers to participate, adding to the drawing so their arm spans, touch and energies are a part of the drawings, creating a connection among us. Then, our many lines will become one vibration, a whole, and a celebration of life.

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I have been painting and drawing throughout my life, while raising four children.  
Although I had a great high school art teacher, I am mainly self-taught.

I have been a member of The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts and the Connecticut Women Artists.  My work has been exhibited in many member shows and several
one-woman shows. 

I was looking for a symbol to express my emotions in my arts.  As I was walking the
beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida, it seemed to explode with a variety of sea forms
washed up on the surface of the sand for all to see.  I am using these forms to express feelings generated by all we see without thought of a deeper meaning. 

Please look to see for yourselves what you can.

I have long found elements of a personal narrative in the aspects of nature. I see
possibility where most find emptiness. Corn roots tap a line to the past, withered flora
can mark a place and shadows carry the promise of light. It has been a constant in my
work, this ability to build an autobiography from the small things I would find while
walking, looking down around my footsteps.

When I had my daughter I was astounded at how at once everything and nothing changed.
I struggled to make sense of this in my work. Time that I had to myself to really think was
short. The most concentrated time I found for my thoughts to wander was while driving.
I began to notice masses of leaves and eventually found a parallel for the constant
overwhelm that I was feeling.

I would imagine sometimes flying away, seeing things from a new perspective, getting a
different view on where I was as a way to determine where I would be going. I began to
shift my gaze. I looked up, glanced forward and stood looking ahead instead of hiding
in memory. This new way of walking was troublesome. I often stumbled, but continued
to push on. For I knew that if something seems new or difficult, it is surely worth
exploring.

In my most recent series of monotypes this looking up found new shapes and light within a canopy of leaves. I see interplay between layers of leaves, each one physically and conceptually affecting the other. Every layer maintains its’ own bounds while allowing pieces of the other layers to affect how each one appears. The whole is made stronger and more interesting because of the intermingle of its’ parts.

As a child, much to the dismay of my parents, I would literally transpose the “woods” next door to my family basement filling it with tree branches, rocks
and fallen leaves brought inside to recreate an exotic imaginary world. While
I loved climbing trees and playing outside, the basement “woods” is where I
made sense of these treasures through dance, drama, song and paint. My
love for the performing arts eventually gave way to painting in my thirties.

Initially, my work focused on a psychological approach to the figure,
somehow in all its irony, missing the “woods” in my voice and palette. In 1999,
I rediscovered my muse with a new series of paintings that later brought me to the Costa Rican and Peruvian cloud and tropical rainforests. With this new visual language, I have continued to explore images that evoke the dream-like world of magic realism that tells a story about this fragile ecosystem. Also informing my work is the belief that “myths and metaphors we create will come from the earth” and not from our cities and civilization. Our interconnectedness with the planet requires of us “to confront these primal mysteries and experience the rapture of being alive” (Joseph Campbell).
 
Unlike visiting zoos and museums of natural history, first-hand observation of plant and animal species in the wild reminds me that nature is extraordinary. It clarifies one’s vision whether observing a mound of caterpillars moving en masse or two macaws hanging upside down from above. The magnificence of both is felt. Yet, I fear we are in the process of turning the extraordinary into the ordinary. We no longer recognize and value the uniqueness of each species. In devaluing nature, we diminish its role in our lives and at our own peril. Is it imaginable and sustainable to live in a world with just a few species of flora and fauna? With this in mind, I paint the figure as a witness to nature’s beauty, its biodiversity, and as an unwitting participant in its destruction. I am hopeful that my paintings can play a role in the need for dialogue on the preservation and celebration of our earth.

http://www.kathipacker.com

These gouache paintings of dishdrainers are part of a series I’m calling Kitchen Clutter. I started these paintings thinking of them as close-ups of larger paintings of interior spaces, but they have taken on their own direction. Although I have been working on this series for about three years, I still find compelling reasons in each painting to continue the exploration. I’m not sure what attracts me to this subject. There is certainly an element of celebration of daily life, along with the recognition that these domestic rituals represent a daily struggle to keep a household from falling into utter chaos.
 
Perhaps the repetitive, meditative quality of some household tasks is not a far stretch from the actual activity of painting the scene. There is enjoyment in bringing order, even harmony, to a random arrangement of objects, shapes and colors. The drama and tension between flat shapes, lines of perspective, light and shadow and color are all played out on the picture plane. As the artist Kerry James Marshall said in a recent interview “The picture plane is the site of every action. How things occupy that space matters more than anything.”
 
On another level, the objects depicted — teakettles, dishes, pots and pans, cups and glasses — can be seen as stand-ins for the deep human connections made in conversation in the kitchen. 

pattyweise.com

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