“Wild Things” to “Lisa Frank-enstein” – Dynamo II: The Epic Journey

Dynamo II. Acrylic, charcoal, aquarelle, collage on canvas. 36" x 60"
Dynamo II. Acrylic, charcoal, aquarelle, collage on canvas. 36″ x 60″

Migration, exchange, transformation, and natural cycles all take central roles in this new large piece I just finished. I’m feeling good about the final composition/content, which seems to be a sort of “Lisa Frank-enstein” multi-phased inner tube journey through dream territory, symbolism, and imagination. The loon and the salmon both make epic journeys during their lifetimes, interacting in a larger wheel that mills out change, promotes adaptation and learning.

To give a bit of background – this canvas was given to me by a friend several years ago, decorated with a large painting of a monster from the book “Where The Wild Things Are.” While this was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed walking it down the street to my apartment, the canvas mostly obscuring my body to make it appear to drivers as though a cartoon-ish freak was waddling down the sidewalk, I immediately gesso-ed over the piece envisioning another heady abstract figurative piece.

I didn’t end up touching it until much later, however, after I visited New Orleans for the first time. There, I began a mild obsession with humidity, bayous, low-hanging clouds, migratory birds, and especially palm trees. When I came back to Minneapolis, I wanted to paint hundreds of palm trees. I began working on the Shadow Palm piece (which you can see earlier on in this blog), trying a night painting technique that ultimately fizzled because I favor my sleep. Again, the project got tabled while I attended to other smaller pieces. Finally now, after getting excited about the “dynamo” concept in nature painting, I found the perfect opportunity to revisit Shadow Palm and help it through it’s own transformation.

Unwitting Dynamo II progenitor painting !
Unwitting Dynamo II progenitor painting !

The painting is large, only 10 inches shorter than myself. This presented a challenge throughout. It is hard to step back and look at the whole composition, to plan for one cohesive image. Besides, in the changing concept of the “dynamo,” so many ideas tend to clamor for attention. This tension/problem in how to work the space of the canvas and what content to bring forward resulted in a painting with distinct phases. I decided my role as “artiste” is akin to “trail guide,” and I simply lead the viewer through the lushness of fleshy pinks, wet blues, glaring yellows. Maybe that responsibility as artist is taking too much of a backseat. I’m okay with that now. Because I mostly don’t like driving anyway.

A pregnant painting?

When looking at the painting, I can see that there are in fact several smaller paintings, or shifty ideas for paintings, within this large piece. It’s kind of like this finished painting is pregnant with lots of other mini-oeuvres, and the viewer can comfortably wander through to consider them all at once or one by one. This “phased” composition was actually a surprise to me as I have never painted that way before, but realized after firmly setting foot in that direction that some of the artists I admire may have employed the same sensibility in their compositions, although I never really saw it that way before. I’m excited to see where else I can take the same way of working.

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