"Who gets to measure the distance between experience and representation? We do. Anyone can." - Richard Siken
Myself along with 24 other painters are learning to accept that we can and are actively measuring that distance, as we push into our third week here at the Mount Gretna School of Art.
Elise Schweitzer has been leading us out into the woods, across rolling hills, through winding roads to chase the light with our brushes. She has not only shared her process, but her support, along with some of the tough questions she's encountered as an artist; "as artists we have a catalog of art history, how do we work with that and make it our own?" Working with Elise has invigorated the foundation we came with, and ushered us into an entirely new place as painters.
Last weekend we traveled as a group to New York City, visiting several museums. The unfinished works at the Met Breuer continue to haunt me. Seeing the rough and unpolished paintings of Titian, Picasso, Monet, Sargent, Freud, and Turner just to name a few, reminded me that they were indeed human, who not only created, but sometimes abandoned their creations, became frustrated, and worked tirelessly. It reminded me of what it's like being a painter, and part of the community at Mount Gretna. At one point or another we we will feel like giving up after several hours every day creating, and more than likely some of the drawings and paintings will be abandoned in our search, but it's a sign that we are on the right track, that we continue to search, and that we are not alone in that search.
We rounded out our trip with a final stop in Jersey City, New Jersey to have a private studio tour with John Dubrow. Walking around, looking at several paintings in process, and hearing what he had to say about being an artist for the last thirty five years was energizing. His palette, a giant piece of wood with twelve years of paint built up and crusting around the edges was centered in the room, it served as a reminder of his searching, and how after thirty five years, he is still "always in transition." He discussed his goals changing from week to week, and how important it is to never have "your thing" down too well. He left us with one final thought; every painting begins with looking for something that only arrives through the process of painting. Though the outcome is in no way what you might have anticipated, it brings you even closer to the spirit of what painting truly is.
This experience has been transformative for my painting. I realized that although I may have been trying to see something, I wasn't actively looking and responding. Being surrounded by hard working, self-motivated creatives has engendered me to paint more intentionally, have a dialogue with my work, and constantly ask myself questions along the way.