Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “Madaket

Artist’s Residency on Nantucket/New Atlas Project

As soon as my  residency at the Nantucket Artists Association was scheduled early last fall I launched into planning. I decided to work with exclusively Nantucket imagery while there, and this dovetailed with a larger plan to spread out into a fresh creative endeavor starting in 2017.
And so, I began developing a new rubric for my work that frames groupings of it thematically, calling it my Atlas Project.
Knowing that I would have access to the print studio at the AAN, and after having been reintroduced to printmaking by program coordinator and printmaker Mary Emery while on Nantucket teaching the summer before, I also began exploring printmaking in earnest, studying with Kate McGloughlin at the Woodstock School of Art.
 My new Atlas Project, just several months in, engages in a process of revealing the web of meaning around and between the individual pieces that I create. The matrix that connects all of my landscape imagery is saturated with memory, both personal and collective. To show these connections, I am working with individual but overlapping thematic groupings. The biggest challenge is to then create a legend, or site map, to the bodies of work.

The first sequence that I approached, before going to Nantucket, was Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow. Using drawing, printmaking, pasteling, writing, and mixed-media along with oil paintings, I am exploring with these sequences the interrelationships of process, history, and memory, as revealed not only by air, land, and water but also by my materials and personal history as an artist, family and community member, and frequent inhabitant of the outdoor world.

In late February, all set up in my studio on Nantucket,  I began work on Atlas/Island with painting in oil so that, in my process of layering wet over dry, I would have time to finish and safely bring home the pieces accomplished.


“Coatue of the Scalloped Edges”, oil on board in vintage drawer, 6″x10.5″ overall.

For some of these locales, I wrote a bit about them and later included these observations in the Site Map. Coatue is a stunning landform, and the perfect image for my box with the circular pull. These unusual scalloped edges of sand have been held in place for centuries. In perfect equalibrium, prevailing winds create waves that push sand out to the points, while currents move it in the opposite direction, depositing it on the bends.

“Moors with Mists”, oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″ overall.

The pieces on board in vintage boxes were not framed that way but rather painted to go inside of those particular boxes, adjusting color and feel of imagery to meld with the tray. I liked the lovely old boxes for this project as a nod to Nantucket’s intricate and unique history.

“Night Harbor”, oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″ overall.

With Night Harbor my observations turn to a personal memory of the sweet evening last summer when I experienced the view depicted. During the day, while I was teaching, my husband was catching fish. We cooked the fish at our friend’s modest house that looks out on the harbor from the outskirts of town,  the Creeks to our right. The three of us sat watching the fog roll in and out of the harbor for hours, barely speaking, until well after nightfall. Night Harbor is an image of the view off to the left of the lights on the wharves and Brandt Point.

 

“Dunes with Snow”, (Steps Beach), oil on board in vintage tray, 5.5″x24″, overall.

Steps Beach appears a few times in this body of work. I researched and wrote a bit about interdune ecology, described below after the second dune painting, a summer image in greens.

I did one piece using my Affinity format, since this image called for it both in color and in the strong horizontal and diagonal compositional elements.

Affinity/Madaket Dusk, oil on linen with frayed edges on primed board overlaid with graphite gridding, 11″x14″.

This pastel is a view from the ferry of Tuckenuck, the island just visible on the right, the sky a late-day winter sunset:

“Gleam over Tuckernuck”, 7″x11″, pastel on paper.

 

After several days at work on imagery with grey/blues or warmer color, I had a yen for some greens, so I did these three pieces, using reference collected last summer while I was there teaching.

 

“House on Madaket Marsh”, oil on linen, 11″x14″.

Madaket also appears a few times, as I am endlessly drawn to its varied topography.  I include the famous story of the formation of Esther Island during hurricane Esther in 1961, and it’s reattachment and detachment in relation to Smith’s Point over the years since then.

SummerDune

“Summer Dunes”, (Steps Beach entrance) oil on linen, 8″x20″.

The steep dunes on the north side of the island can be safely traipsed through and enjoyed going into Steps Beach. The scene above, a view off to the left between the two large dunes above the beach, is a thriving interdune habitat with just about every shade of green within. The mists tamp the colors down just enough to appeal to my subtle color sensibility.

I knew that dune grasses hold dunes and that marsh grasses both hold ground from eroding seas and clean water passing through; but I didn’t really understood how. Thanks mostly to several articles that I read from Yesterday’s Island by Dr. Sarah Oktay, formerly of the Nantucket Field Station, I now get it and am suitably impressed.

Dune grasses not only anchor sand that is there, they also trap windborn sand and hold it, building dune height. Then, due to their extensive system of underground stems, they are able to grow right up on top of themselves to trap more sand, and so on. Further, as the grasses below decay, soil begins to be built and other plants and small deciduous shrubs can colonize the dune. As these seasonally drop leaves that compost, more soil is built and plants with larger roots can attain purchase and now you have a healthy, diverse, interdune system that protects the shore from erosion during winter storms.

 

“Quaise Marsh”, oil on linen, 11″x14″.

Now, for marsh grasses, perhaps my most frequently painted subject in the past several decades. These grasses trap sediment and organic matter with every tide—cleansing the water—creating a kind of peat at their roots. They, too, can then grow up on top of themselves and this peat and gain height to keep pace with sea level rise,  protecting the shoreline from erosion. That is, they have been able to so far. It is unlikely that they will continue to succeed with the potential six foot rise predicted, at this juncture, by 2100.

Back to the residency. Finally in the print studio, I dialed in on which sorts of my landscape imagery work well in a medium that has a very lively feel. I had previously noted that the soft-focus of my pantings does not translate as well as my emphasis on very strong, minimalist compositions with bold shapes intersecting the picture plane, so I headed straight into this terrain. As before, the first two or three prints that I pull of a given subject matter are not wholly successful, so each print is very much a process of trial and error. This is quite different from my painting process, where I can and do always persist and tweak anything I am not completely happy with.

The imagery for the first two monotypes below came out of walks I did on Nantucket during my first week of the residency, at the Creeks, a lovely marshy area on the harbor near town; and the Moors. The third is an image of Madaket from last summer that I both painted and explored in monotype.

MWinter Creek, 10″x8″, monotype.

 

MMoors, 8″x10″, monotype.

 

MMarsh with House, 8″x10″, monotype.

I also worked on small monotype thumbnails, as well as a linocut map of Nantucket, to incorporate into my Site Map, printing one thumbnail each for the oil paintings that I did for this grouping of Atlas/Island. The map is the new element for me, still very much a work-in-progress, that knits each thematic sequence of paintings, drawings, and prints together, and gives info about the work and the locales. The below is the second prototype–the first was for Atlas/Forms of Water/Snow—and most definitely not the final template. The idea is to map both the subject matter I am working from and the body of work that results.

Site Map with linoprint map and map fragments of Nantucket; monotype thumbnails; tracings; writing and letterpress. The blue areas on the map show parts of the island that will be underwater                                                                 when sea levels rise 3 meters.

 

I am now, at home, hard at work on a third prototype of the site map, trying to integrate the thumbnails, maps, and writing in a more visually lush way. I’ll add it to the post when I am finished.

 To mount a cohesive show of the Nantucket sequence, or any other, of Atlas Project I will want to include some medium-sized and large oil paintings, something I couldn’t do in a short period of time and when all of my supplies and then finished work had to be carried back and forth by foot on the ferry.
I have been fairly obsessive about my work for many years. This very intense two weeks, however, brought my focus to a new high, working morning, noon and night. I broke it up with walks to see the island and my yoga practice…and that was it. I came up with solutions to things I was pondering about the Site Map in the middle of the night—and otherwise slept quite well— and arranged my waking work hours to feel a focused fullness; a kind of (mostly) calm momentum.

In my work I have always seesawed back and forth between the universal and the particular. With a new framework for the work I can continue to do this with individual pieces, while exploring an expanded conversation. Land and and water use has been political since the beginning of our time on earth. As these issues continue to become increasingly critical, I have been catapulted —and also eased, nestled— into creating the Atlas Project, a love-letter to our planet.

 I am grateful to the staff at the AAN, especially Mary Emery, for providing this opportunity and for all of their help. And deepest thanks to my husband Jack, who facilitated it all.