Are the marks, composition and color harmonies in our artwork influenced by our relationship to the subject matter or concept? Should they be? Are the proportions and placement of images and shapes directed by the attachment we feel, and meaning we consciously or unconsciously assign to them? How important is our personal connection to our subject matter? That is what I’ve been pondering during the creation of my last four pieces. Is the integrity and quality of my art even linked to the answers of the above questions?
Then again, maybe I already have my answer. I am so grateful for artist Brian O’Neill and his abstract workshop I took this past year. One of my finished paintings had visual bits and pieces, elements that were a synchronization of the reference photos I had brought in, portraying glimpses of home, family, mood and relationship. I felt this was one of the more successful paintings I ever did. It wasn’t forced, and I didn’t over think it. I didn’t have to make any conscious decisions about the positive and negative space. I wasn’t deliberately or consciously trying to create a metaphor using design elements . . . no commentary on mood using color, or distance between shapes revealing a hidden meaning of my feelings of closeness to someone or something. With the help of a meditation exercise, I could just let it happen. Yet, that painting spoke everything I needed to know about my subject, and I welcomed the revelation.
These past five years have been a test of my physical, mental, and emotional endurance.
I left a career I loved, teaching elementary art, in order to explore and facilitate how best to care for my mother as she progressed through the stages of cognitive decline. As her memory failed, I wanted to capture in my art those things which once held special meaning for her. She had never moved my father’s jacket from where it hung in his shop in 1986, at the time of his death. She could look at it frequently, as his shop was on the same property as her house. This building is where she then began to store her gardening tools. I created a pastel portrait of my father’s jacket which I titled Still. A part of my mother’s iris garden, which hugged the white painted concrete foundation of their home, was also captured in a pastel titled Remains To Touch. The dirt around the once so lovingly cared for irises was now speckled with crumbs of debris and decaying organic matter. As I gazed at these images during the process of getting what was once their home ready to sell, I felt deep emotion and a connection to what was symbolized there. I took many photos.
Prior to participating in O’Neill’s abstract workshop, I probably would have tried to force a metaphor of these subjects to which I had a personal connection: my father’s jacket, left behind and slipped out of at too young an age, and my mother’s nurtured irises, abandoned by their caretaker who at some point could not even remember their name. Though the subject of jacket and iris are recognizable, and deliberate, I thoroughly enjoyed the freeform abstract approach I took with laying out the subject and putting down the color. Referencing my first paragraph – “the importance of personal connection” – I’ve come to this conclusion: Though personal connections make for a great launching pad, I would never want them to define the perimeters of the journey. Personal connections should motivate, but never limit.
– Jackie Lippa
All artwork by Jackie Lippa