Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rethinking the concept of a "series"

In January I wrote about the confinement I felt in naming a body of work as a "series".  And now in June I find myself in the middle of a huge series based on impressions from my visit to the desert southwest in February and April.  I cannot seem to focus on anything else.  I feel I'm almost "caught" in this series and will stay here until all possibilities are exhausted!  I'm obsessed.

This experience helped raise my awareness of what fellow artists who paint in a "series" are telling me, especially when  I see multiple paintings by those same artists that are outside their current named series. While I was in Taos attending the Intensive Studies Seminar in April, Skip Lawrence defined a "series" as something that is 20 works or more.  I'm not sure where he came up with the number, but I'm there, in fact I've passed that magic number.

I think that a series can represent a
lot of things.  It can be a response to a particular subject, as my present series is, or it can represent a situation, a period of time, a thought or a mood.  We artists can see when we are changing course.  Every painting is different, every work speaks a new language.  When we start repeating that underlying language over and over we are in the middle of a series.  When we insist on change, on not being "stuck", then we are moving away from that series and moving into new territory.

Being an artist is the hardest, the most challenging and the most satisfying thing I've ever done in my life.  I want to label, identify, quantify (20 at least!!) and understand why I do what I do and why it works or it doesn't work.  I don't pick up a regular paycheck, I don't get some little ribbon or paper at the staff meetings anymore.  I work and work and work
and sometimes that work says a lot about one thing and sometimes it does not.  Currently I'm saying a lot about my personal response to the desert.  The first photo was, even though I didn't know it at the time, the signal that this series was starting.  It incorporated new colors and new shapes and I called it "Transitions" which turned out to be a very appropo title.  The second is  "Desert Scorpion" which is a huge simplification of shapes within this series.  The third is my most recent painting, "Desert Spring", which expresses how amazed I was at all the green that I saw in February. I've done 20 paintings plus.  Welcome to my current obsession, called the "Desert Series".