Tomorrow night I’m opening a solo exhibit at Kempton Hall, at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in NW Portland. 23 paintings, dating from 2008 to September 2011, will be my initiation into a different kind of “solo” — the sole kind of art I envision making from now on.
Jou Barn Dreams, 12 x 24″, oil on masonite, 2011
I keep wondering why I am giving up the fiber art, but the truth is, my passion is for painting. I got the last piece of exhibited fiber art back from Kansas in December, rolled it up, and put it away. One of these days, I may even have a grand sale, freeing up storage space for paintings.
Here’s the last textile piece I did:
The House of the Rising Sun is typical of the late textile works I made. None of them are pretty or even decorative. They use quilting techniques, but they are about something entirely other than textiles or stitching or quilting.
The late textile pieces tend to be painterly. For good reason. Since 2006 I have been slithering, sliding, sneaking, and finally trotting toward oil painting as my primary medium. I would have given up the quilted art earlier but for my membership in the Kansas Art Quilters organization and in the SAQA – Oregon group. Both groups were run by people I admired, whom I felt were friends, and to whom I felt a sense of professional obligation. So these last few years, I’ve struggled to put together a couple of pieces for exhibiting with these groups.
But it became clearer and clearer that without practice, I struggled with the stitching processes. And I struggled with impatience.
I am never impatient when I paint. Frustrated, yes. Exhausted, yes. Needing to work on multiple pieces at once, yes. But not impatient.
I am not a natural stitcher. I didn’t learn to sew at my mother’s knee (my mother made homemade clothing, things we wore because we had to and because we knew she struggled, generally unsuccessfully, to sew something that didn’t look homemade. Early on, I resolved never to make homemade “things.”).
I learned to quilt in the late 1980s, got a sewing machine (which I had to learn to use) in about 1992, found I loved the mechanics of the machine, adored designing with the fabric and thrilled at watching the quilting stitches become designs — but I never liked piecing or tweaking or doing the finicky stuff that fine sewing requires. I absolutely hated doing the finish work, but I never could find anyone who did it the way I wanted it done. Even I didn’t do it the way I wanted it done.
And so December marked the end of an era in my artistic life. RIP.
January marks another beginning, auspiciously, I think, with the Trinity exhibit.
The exhibit consists primarily of four sets of pieces, each set having one large, somewhat surreal (or at least wacky), painting, hung between “conventional” plein air landscapes. What pleases me about these “sets” is that they talk to one another, providing something of the context that I experienced as I painted them. I’m hoping people will understand more about the space and place I found as I painted.
When painting plein air, I am totally immersed in the scene visually and chronologically — time, people, cars, wind, odors, and life pass as I work. A single plein air scene, regardless of how well it’s painted, doesn’t capture any of the roving views that I take in or the way the light and perspective shifts as time and I move around. So the sets of 3 or 5 pieces grab a bit more of time, space, and place.
Here’s one of the sets that’s hanging at Trinity: the first four pieces are 12 x 16″, the last is 34 x 36″.
Every end is a beginning — every beginning marks an ending. And so it is with this exhibit.
If you are in the neighborhood, come on by Friday night. The Trinity art committee has been great to work with and rumor has it that the comestibles will be a delight. I’ll be there. –June
For a bit of text about the exhibit, see the continuation.
Inside Out: Fractured Landscapes by June O. Underwood
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, January and February 2012
June Underwood goes out and paints what she sees. Then she comes back in to her studio, thinks about the place and her time in it, and she paints again. Outside she sticks to a single area, creating different versions of the place. Inside, the scenes are collaged into surreal landscapes, tied to but different from the calmer open air paintings.
In January and February 2012, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in NW Portland, Underwood will be showing clusters of her landscape paintings. The exhibit will bring together her fractured landscapes surrounded by her realistic depictions of the same places.
“When I’m confronted with a painting possibility, I immerse myself in its peculiarities. I do research. I sit and watch the space. I see stuff that people who are more casually connected have no time to see. I know when the lawn sprinklers come on in Cathedral Park. I draw the different barn types in eastern Oregon. I can recite names of geological formations in the John Day Fossil Beds. I understand how the time of day dictates the styles of people walking around SE Alder and 6th Avenue in Portland.
“I paint plein air in clusters and over time because it takes more than one visit and one painting to show what I see and feel about a space. Then I revisit, mentally, those open air scenes in my studio, trying to capture a different mental extract of my experience.”
Underwood’s twenty-three paintings represent three weeks at Cathedral Park; six days at SE Alder and 6th Avenue in Portland; and months off and on in eastern Oregon. Even a street scene, such as January Skies, comes from living and walking near SE Salmon for 15 years.
“My work is about place, place and space, but it’s also about being present, over time, in a particular space and place. It’s essential that I paint multiple versions of any single scene. It’s essential that I go back to a place, physically and mentally, over time. One visit, one view, simply isn’t enough.
Underwood’s renderings, representational and otherwise, will be on display in Kempton Hall at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Avenue, January and February 2012. The opening reception is Friday, January 6, 5 –7 PM. The paintings can be accessed at other times by calling 503-222-9811