My quillwork paintings began in 2006 as skyscapes inspired by specific places I’d traveled to, either in my imagination or on holiday. I would methodically chart the names, assigning each new piece to a letter of the alphabet, a to z, several times over.
Thus, the works in the exhibition refer directly to something tangible. They may be ephemeral recollections or fragments of photographs. My intention is to explore the poetry of color, the shifting of time (especially in the literal shift that occurs as you view the pieces from the side and then full frontally).
Gemstones and minerals, and frequently opals inspired several newer paintings. The titles of those refer to the place where that color of stone might be found. The black and white palette of the series ELBERTON, is reminiscent of granite, and is named for Elberton, GA, where granite has been mined for over 120 years. The paradox inherent in beautiful funerary memorials is not lost on me. This contradiction of pretty vs. ugly occurs constantly in my work --- utterly gorgeous moments that belie personal pain.
BROKEN HILL, formerly known only for its mines, lies in the outback desert of New South Wales. The Daydream Mine and smelters have given way to an enormous solar plant. Past and future, dirty and clean, dark tunnels and open skies come together in the cobalt field of my painting.
Whitework has a long, multi-cultural history and is a hallmark of Victorian needlework. I have always seesawed between florid color and black and white, constantly seduced by the heat of fuchsia or the cool tones of white. CHASING RABBITS, a consequence of “White Rabbit,” the anthem sung by Grace Slick, celebrates all that is pure and virginal, shrouded in a deathly veil. All those allusions frequent my thoughts and I have identified with Alice since my SoCal Disney-centric childhood.
My health nightmares of recent years are manifested in BY ANY MEANS. Its vortex is based on falling down the rabbit hole and dying. Swirling silver iridescent paint serves as a ground for thousands of hand-painted quills that were meticulously sewn down, couched with nearly invisible threads. Falling down the rabbit hole, spinning out of control, hoping Mr. Wizard would turn me back to normal. Another allusion would be to a stormy sky with tornadic winds, leading to Oz.
Ellen Frances Tuchman