As a visual artist I continue to challenge my courage for color. I love color, period. Well, is there such thing as too much color? Is it ever more appropriate to use color than not?
I truly love to dance with color whereas color field artists conduct an orchestra with it. Perhaps how color is used is solely dependent on the composition and emphasis of the piece—even though the artist may never voice this. How many artists exist that do not know what colors they will choose at first—but decide along the way? Others know from the start that it will be all about color and plan the piece based on the colors they want to use. One color field artist friend of mine loves ‘playing’ with paint and is always reworking and changing colors. Still some experiment—the first colors chosen are for swapped out for different ones—adopting a ‘devil-may-care’ attitude (hey, why not you can always gesso over mud). Based on my current work (Children at Play) which uses color contrasts as part of the composition, I already know what colors I’ll use and how they will work to communicate what I’m trying to say. The background colors I choose are just as important as the foreground or subjects’ colors. To avoid stagnation I strive to vary the intensity and effect making sure I have a good balance between dark and light tones with other elements of the piece.
The courage for me comes in being true to the piece and not letting my rampant color desires take over and disrupt what I’m trying to get to say to the viewer. BUT, what about the unquenchable love for color that I told you I have? Taking a “break” from my primary theme is a must for me. This has been especially true of my recent Death by Skittles series—it can be too emotionally draining. So I use printmaking, collage, mixed media, and fiber to get off on color. Here’s one called Birds in Flight (mixed media) and Musing at Lake Serene (mixed media).
Birds in Flight
Musing at Lake Serene
Um yes, it is possible to have color overload in a painting. Just because you have access to every paint color variation in the rainbow doesn’t mean you have to use them all. The eye can only take so much. If many variations can be created from a few colors, why use 25 different ones. I am sure—less is more.
On Saturday, September 7, I spent several hours on what would be my last visit to the 30 Americans exhibit on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). While I do not have official numbers of visitors that day, it was wall-to-wall. I personally knew several people who were going this weekend to see it just one last time—the exhibit closed today, September 8. As one of the Wisconsin 30, I have gone often to participate in the related events, listen to speakers, et cetera—but it’s been so much more than this privilege afforded me. Like many others I was drawn back to it over and over again—each time attempting to absorb the magnitude and wealth of knowledge and information it had to offer. It’s hard to believe that it is over.
Even before the thought of the exhibition’s last showing loomed into view I was aware of what would soon take place. The reality slap came when I received the email from MAM staff giving instructions for the retrieval of my artwork. Many emotions have begun to manifest and I find myself asking, “Is this exhibit the beginning of many things to come (meaning, will similar provocative work find its way to MAM’s doors)? “Was this just another ‘one-of-a-kind’ event that comes once in your lifetime similar to Halley’s Comet?” “Will the timeless historical, cultural, societal, and political relevancy of this exhibit continue to reverberate throughout the hearts, minds, and souls of those who experienced it first-hand?” “Will it just remain ‘colorful eye candy’ to the shallow and simple-minded who wonder how did they (a particular ’30 American’ artist they admired) make it (the piece they were particularly drawn to)? “Is the significance and timing of 30 Americans coming to Milwaukee meant to be esoteric?” “What effect will it have on me and my work?” “What will the youth that visited the exhibit learn from it?”
As I ponder possible answers to these questions my belief that whether you have taken a panoramic or microscopic view of 30 Americans you will admit you are not the same you were before attending. Will you allow that changed person to move you to do something more—to be something more?
Most artists attempt to communicate to the viewer in their work—that’s what we do. It might sound crude, but whether you get it doesn’t really matter—we still has to get it out. The 30 Americans artists were not just speaking loudly—they were shouting!! Did you get it?