Artist Statement—dianne k. webb
“No doubt in Holland when Van Gogh was a boy…” wrote Mary Oliver and published in 1990 in her poem Everything from the collection, House of Light. Van Gogh as a boy. She paints a picture with words,
“there were swans drifting
over the green sea
of the meadows, and no doubt
on some warm afternoon
he lay down and watched them,
and almost thought; this is everything.
What drove him to look further…”1
In her poem, Oliver continues focusing on the light or the lack thereof, echoing in its depth the human journey of the psyche. From the simple physical pleasure of childhood to the adolescent drive toward meaning, the challenge and despair of identity, the lost-ness and final re-membering, returning to a deeper, richer light—
“weightless and unaccountable”1
With no attempt to illustrate this work in the figurative or representational, I sought to evoke the emotional journey of the subject—the ultimate journey of all of us as we strive through the “grit and hopelessness” 1 “which is only terrible”1 toward a hopeful outcome of compassion as we embrace the complex paradigm of our own humanness—through layers of abstract expressionism. Using the palate of Van Gogh, inspired by his tireless attempts to demonstrate the light, I approached these twelve pieces. Each piece began with selected words from the poem cut into the still wet gesso. Then the layering spread out over the canvas with glaze after glaze of light, dark, light, dark, ochre, umber, ultramarine, yellow, alizarin.
The initial piece, This is Everything, introduces the idea of the light, the beauty of the natural world, the joy of simple pleasures. The second in the series, Look Further, is darker, redder, and draws the viewer into the inescapable desire for more, for meaning, for connection. The organic image offers a second component, another idea—an unformed desire. As the viewer progresses through the series, the pieces darken, umber and ultramarine, alizarin and ocher deepening and graying the canvas until finally, “For years he would reach toward the darkness…”1 and only smidges of light come through. And then…
“But no doubt, like all of us,
he finally remembered
And no doubt, like all of us, the remembering of the light, the joy after the darkness, is sweeter, deeper, more complex and more compassionate. The finally pieces in the series attempt to capture the light more deliberately—using the cobalt, ultramarine, the yellows, viridian, the unmatched blues of Van Gogh, the expressions on the canvas all at once taking flight, settling in, finding that space where, “nothing else mattered, but the insensible light.”1
1. Oliver, Mary. (1990) “Everything,” House of Light. Beacon Press. Boston.