From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Posts Tagged ‘painting

Studio in the Time of Covid

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Moroccan Desert from Mary March on Vimeo.

Creatives with materials have a bit of an edge in this isolation situation- while we may miss some things we bring our own world with us.  Also, my CFS/ME disability has taught me to appreciate the little things like my life depends on it, and this has served me well in these strange times.  In a way I am treasuring this time of focus.

While my house/studio is under construction (delayed now of course) I have been using the garage in our temporary house, not to mention exploding my Identity Tapestry yarn and other things around the house as usual.  I’m lucky the space works for me.  I am also profoundly lucky in my husband and kiddo.  We’ve all done very well together the past six weeks, despite being under the strictest possible isolation since I’m immune compromised.

garage studioI’ve been busy delving into the new series of encaustic paintings using dynamically programmed LEDs in collaboration with programmer Mark Kreigsman. The first piece was “Beneath these waves lies light”.  The second in the series (shown) is based on the Moroccan desert, and ones based on light through leaves and the northern lights are in in the final stage of programming. Thankfully I got materials for another six after that before the stores closed down.

These are especially interesting and challenging.  Rather than just the surface of the paint, or even light bouncing through layers of paint, now I have to get each stroke right from the base upwards.  The light coming through the piece shows every mark.  Also, different pigments filter light different ways, perhaps reflecting yellow but filtering orange, so in low light it looks orange and in bright light yellow. I have scraped off and repainted the last three two/three times each as I work through the unique properties of each set of pigments and work for just the right texture. Another step is finding the correct colors of light to program by their RGB numbers and seeing how they play through the paint, trying and tweaking, shifting combinations.  I paint in different lighting conditions over the first pass of basic light programming I can do myself, while tuning both the paint and light colors.  Then I work with Mark to get much more sophisticated layers of motion and mapping correct for the feel and goal of the painting.

These are incredibly engaging and fascinating for me despite their seeming simplicity and I haven’t seen anyone else do anything like them.  One thing though, they are very tricky to faithfully photograph or video and look significantly better in person.

In the meantime we’ve been locked down like everyone.   I was working on a new Identity Tapestry installation as well until that show got postponed.  I do what I can with the remaining energy I have to make masks which the lovely folks at Dames Do Care (ladies on motorcycles) deliver to places that need them.  Now with the 3D printer free of Identity Tapestry stuff  I can put the it to use on other PPE, which is gratifying.  We use our skills to do what we can in these strange and disturbing times.

Shows everywhere are understandably being canceled and postponed.  My upcoming installation at the Palo Alto Art Center is being postponed for a new show at a later date, with the June show canceled.  Another event out of state with an installation piece has been canceled, and there were two larger profile shows that were meant to be in China this fall, but are also likely to be canceled or postponed.  I absolutely don’t begrudge this and want people to stay safe and healthy.  I just hope our wonderful art institutions weather this storm with all the support we can give them.



Written by Mary Corey March

April 23, 2020 at 1:36 am

in-process on “Between the Lines (Experience Exchange)”

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sprectrum-side These are the first set of “pages” for participants in Between the Lines (Experience Exchange) to write on.  The materials are translucent acrylics on vellum with bookbinding thread sewn into the tops to tie them into the structure.

The piece was commissioned by the College of the Redwoods for their annual Book of the Year celebration.  This year’s book is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The structure of the piece is a large sculpture created a s a physical framing of some of the book’s core concepts  (I saw them, but also based  on interviews with the author, reviews, and discussions with other people).  The questions also derive from the book, and will ask participants to respond with their own related experiences.



Painting Challenge- leaving it rough

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I pushed through a rough spot in the studio yesterday (not least because I forgot my headphones and had to paint through other people’s music and conversations).  I have been struggling with the Pieta painting and how I want to make objects in the alleyway fade in and out of distinction.   I want the figures themselves, especially the Mother figure to be more classical Renaissance in style, eternal-feeling, more real than the surroundings, but the alley/background needs to be less distinct.

It could be blended and fogged, faded, abstract… there are so many ways to go.

Yesterday I had a lot of pent-up, agitated energy.  I almost didn’t paint, but then I felt that it was exactly the energy that should go into the background.  As I started to paint the supporting objects for the figure (a tent-bag, folded blankets, a roll of foam, cardboard sheets) I found myself drawn to a larger brush than usual and went with it.  Bold strokes came out and I found myself loving the space behind them showing the underpainting.

This is hard.

It’s hard to leave those raw marks and not fuss over them.  There is a tendency towards smoothing things out and making them more representational if you know how (something I see when I’m tutoring or teaching a class all the time).    …but when I look at other paintings, those rough ones are the marks I love best.

I think this is my answer.  I’m going to rough it all in in this style, leaving gaps to the under-painting and then pick out tiny portions of objects to add detail to.   I want a little of that dream-feeling that objects only gain detail when you look at them closely and become indistinct otherwise.  I want it to feel in-motion, impermanent, to highlight the rock that is the mother-figure.  I think the “child” figure will have aspects of both.

The whole experience was a uncomfortable and unbalancing, but also refreshing in a way.  It’s a sign of growth- we can’t learn new things when we stay in our comfort zone at all times, and I intend to keep learning.

The painting I find most sublime is when someone can play surprising elements against each other: rough against smooth, figurative against abstract, digital against organic.  It goes with the obsession with liminality and paradox.

Written by Mary Corey March

January 6, 2012 at 1:28 am