In August of 2021, I was the featured artist at the gallery I co-own, following the other gallery artists, Jeremy Simonson (July) and Laura Grisamore (June). The body of work exhibited titled Polar Opposites consisted of two separate bodies of work created at the same time; Silent Screams and Abstract Landscapes. Both were direct results that emerged out of the pandemic and like so many artists the work was unlike some of the prior themes I explored.
Abstract Landscapes became the activity that began a process of detoxifying after leaving a job that created a build up of stress over the years, with the last year and a half bringing that stress to a level that should have been alleviated with the idea of retirement, but instead culminated to using coping methods to get through the day. The first one, titled Ode to Turner originated from just putting brush to canvas and letting the process of creating take place. The results reminded me of Joseph Mallord William Turner‘s work, but with less drama of the historical events he included. These became imaginary landscapes that addressed color and open spaces.
Silent Screams became cathartic process of finding a release for a collection of voices that held anxiety, frustration, or anger. While sorting through old drawings, that I deemed no longer necessary to keep I began to repurpose the paper and gessoed over them. As I explored, I ended up washing portions of the drawings to remove what I considered ugly and chaotic. At that point I felt like it was too chaotic much like our current world and society, so I decided to try and organize and unify the work. Much like how we trying to get back to pre-pandemic days. As I blocked off areas when working on the first one of the series, the emergence of the portrait came through with the square shape of the open mouth waiting to scream. Finding a stash of cut pieces of acetate, I used one to write a Silent Scream of my own and overlaid it onto the work. As it happens, I had hundreds of velcro dots and used one to place the “scream” over the mouth area. At that point I began to collect “screams” including my own, that were shared with me through the various means; mail, private messages, written on notebook paper left with me. The words are what they wanted to scream out in either the workplace, home, or the community as a whole, but would or could not because they would risk their job, family or place in community. These were also written on acetate and took their place among the others. Ultimately, after receiving about 45 responses in a couple of weeks I wondered, “Does freedom of speech really exist?”
The exhibit consisted of 8 Abstract Landscapes, 6 Silent Screams, and 6 framed 12 x 36 oil paintings I created within that same time frame. Some which were based on memories from travels with my parents during the summer months between teaching art at a rural high school.