This past week I had the pleasure of creating a mural side by side with my friend and fellow artist Aleyna Feinberg. Roots Restaurant in Rutland, VT, in partnership with 77Art, has been inviting artists into their newly expanded dining space for live painting sessions, their intention being to create a lively and exciting atmosphere for diners despite all the limitations required by corona virus safety precautions. The project also provides paid work for visual artists and the opportunity to create whatever we want, requiring only that the art be family friendly. The resulting murals are designed to be temporary, and will be painted over eventually to make space for new artists.
As you can probably guess from their mural, Aleyna is really into scenes that combine buildings and trees. They have a great eye for the way the angular shapes of human architecture interact with arching tree trunks and sunlight filtering through foliage. Their art tends to have a nostalgic quality, which a number of diners picked up on, noticing how Aleyna's mural brought them right back to the street they grew up on, even though the image was based on a different street entirely. This was only enhanced by their process. Aleyna works without outlines and instead builds the image up from a transparent layering of sweeping and swirling brushstrokes. This gave the effect of a scene slowly emerging from the fog over the course of the four nights of painting.
I based my mural on a series of pastel drawings I did this summer of the Full Moon and the view from my house in Huntington. When the Moon rises in just the right spot over the pond the moonlight will reflect in the water. This will not happen with every moonrise as the Moon, like the Sun, rises in different places depending on where it is in relation to our equator. There was also a moment this summer, soon after the solstice, when Saturn and Jupiter rose with the full Moon. This was actually what helped me identify Saturn and Jupiter for the first time, as I pay attention to astrology and I knew they were all in Capricorn together. Since then I have been watching the two planets rise earlier and earlier as the Earth makes it's orbit around the Sun. I am fascinated by these temporary relationships: the Moon and the pond or the Moon and the planets, the way the Moon must be positioned in relation to the Earth and the Sun to create the phenomenon of a fully illuminated Moon, the clouds parting for just a moment to reveal all three heavenly bodies at once.
This is the night by night progression of my painting. I had the composition mostly worked out on the first night. On the second night I went into detail on the clouds, building up layers of light and dark to create the moonlit glow. The sky was pretty much finished by the third night, which was a big relief because it meant I didn't need to use a ladder anymore. I darkened the trees, added the reflections of moonlight onto the water, and created the tree shadows and grass texture in the foreground with tons of little lines. On the final night I built up the texture of the trees and changed the shape of the tree line. This required repainting the mountains and a little bit of the sky, a risky move with so little time left to paint. I also added the craters to the moon and darkened the sky around it just a bit more to really make it feel illuminated. The final touch was an extremely light wash of blue over the trees and grass
This is my first mural and the biggest I've ever painted. I really loved working at this scale. I also really loved working side by side with Aleyna. We have been friends for four years now but this is the first time we've painted together. Art is often a very individual pursuit and it can get lonely working by yourself all the time. I haven't been able to work in a shared space since the community print studio closed down in April. It was really interesting to see the way our work style is similar. For example, we both like to create drawings of the same image over and over with minor variations, and then work from a combination of those drawings. We are also both interested in the way light shines at particular moments in time and strive to capture these moments in our paintings.
This summer I was invited to create a new work on canvas for an exhibit at Burlington City Arts titled "Stay Home / Stay Safe [Executive Order 01-20]". 15 artists were chosen to participate by BCA and then each of those invited another artist for 30 artists total. I was invited by my friend Corrine Yonce. We worked together back in 2018 for "Home Works" at S.P.A.C.E. Gallery, a show featuring work made in collaborations with affordable housing residents in Burlington, so it was fitting that we would be in another home themed show together.
Each artist was given a 2"x3" canvas and asked to create a work reflecting on the meaning of home in light of the shelter in place order issued by our governor in spring 2020. For a number of reasons, I was feeling like I couldn't count on home to be a place of safety and security. I lived through domestic abuse when I first moved to Burlington many years ago, and I could only imagine how bad the situation would have been if I didn't have places I could temporarily escape to. For me it was not self-evident that stay home equals stay safe, and I wanted my painting to reflect this.
At the same time, this exhibit was intended to welcome the community back into the gallery after being closed for several months and provide an opportunity to buy affordable artwork (all canvases were priced at $250). So I didn't want to create a dark, hopeless painting, even though that's where my thoughts on home were. I was thinking a lot about how many of us are not free to feel safe in our own homes, whether due to child abuse/ domestic abuse, environmental toxicity, military planes flying over head, police presence, threat of eviction, homelessness, ptsd, and/or confinement to an institution such as a prison, hospital, or nursing home. I decided my response would be to create a painting that felt like freedom, a painting you might escape into.
I based the imagery on the wildflowers growing around my house and tried to make it as colorful and full of life as possible. I titled it "June & July", after the time period I created it in, and as a nod to the idea that sometimes it is easier to feel grounded in time when you don't feel grounded in place. In preparation I made a number of drawings from life, which itself was a very grounding, and then figured out how to combine them into the final composition.
The show itself turned out really cool. Sadly there was no opening event due to restrictions on large gatherings in the state of Vermont. It would have been a lot of fun with thirty different artists, many of them friends of mine. If you didn't get a chance to see the show you can check out the program guide at the BCA website.