Thursday, April 1, 2021

Long time coming

A few years I bought two wood painting panels, 8 x 8 x 1.5 inches, and wanted to experiment with adding more paint to my collages.  I had always had a mental block about considering myself to be a "painter," but something changed.  So long ago that I forget what it was.  

I started by pasting down some card-weight scraps of paper to make a textured surface.  Then I slathered blue, black and rust-red paint over the top of everything, making a point of not mixing the different colors too uniformly.  I had some scraps of map left over from cutting shapes for previous collages, so I pasted them on top.  I took the panels to my drawing/critique group and they were not amused.

The map scrap, which I adored, was too prominent, people said.  The other panel was a good background but nothing much was happening on top of it.  I took the panels home and reworked them.  I cut just the roads out of some maps and pasted them on top.  I grayed out the too-prominent map shape (which I still adored) with diluted black paint.  I did some other things that I have forgotten.  Now it was me who was not amused.

The panels sat around my studio reproaching me.  Shortly before pandemic lockdown I was asked to be part of a project in my textile and fiber arts group in which we each took some paper from a haul of antique piano rolls and were supposed to do something with it.  I left this task till the last minute and the night before the meeting I did some lame experimentation, cutting the paper, weaving it back together, writing on it with a calligraphic pen (the ink bled into the paper).  Realized this was lame, and that very afternoon, before the meeting, I grabbed one of the wood panels and collaged some piano roll paper over the top.

After I showed what I had done with the paper, the audience was not amused, especially since the other presenters had done far more imaginative things with their samples.  I took the panels home and put them back in their corner.  

Kathleen Loomis, Black C

Then a month ago I decided it was time to stop playing around with these panels and actually finish them.  I had unearthed a bag of tiny collages that I had made a long time ago, and decided that one of them would go beautifully on the panel with the piano roll paper.  Then I made a little weaving from two vintage books, mounted it on some handmade paper that an art pal had given me, and put it on the panel with the map shape -- now further grayed down with a layer of cheesecloth over the top. 

Both pieces were clearly not made in an afternoon -- they show the traces of several different iterations underneath what became the final versions.  I wish I had been documenting all the steps along the way, none of them particularly successful, but I was clearly modeling "If at first you don't succeed...." 

Kathleen Loomis, Blue Courage (note heart-shaped map scrap at lower left)
Finally I was amused!  The two pieces will be in a show at PYRO Gallery, of work that all the member artists made during the coronavirus lockdown.  

The show opens tomorrow and will be up throughout April.  The gallery will be open for visitors every weekend, and we'd love to have you drop in if you're anywhere near Louisville.  I'll meet you there by appointment if you can't make it during regular hours, or if you're still cautious about being out in public spaces.

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