|ARYN, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 36 x 2 inches, © 2016 Diane McGregor|
The new body of work I have been creating since early 2016 has been a rewarding shift in my painting practice. In addition to transitioning to new media (oil and cold wax on deep-cradled Gessobord panels), this work explores a completely different style and subject matter. These new paintings are gestural abstractions inspired by the planet Mars. My husband is an astronomer, and one of his responsibilities has been to serve on the International Astronomical Union's committee that names geological features on Mars. Mars nomenclature is a fascinating process and has a very interesting history, beginning with the Milanese astronomer Schiaparelli’s work in the late 1800s based on his visual observations of the planet. At that time Schiaparelli was only able to observe albedo features (dark and light patterns on the planet’s surface) as seen from the telescopes of that era. Schiaparelli’s thematic nomenclature referred back to geographical and mythical names of the ancient world, and, he chose names “whose sound awakes such pleasant memories.” This procedure for naming features on Mars has continued into the present day. HiRISE, THEMIS, and other orbiting instruments and spacecraft have been able to gather magnificent visual detail of martian geography. I became interested in the martian place names for their poetic and ambiguous associations, and I thought they would make great titles for abstract paintings. The link between titles and imagery has always been an important focus in my work. So I began to study the photographic data that has been gathered from the various spacecraft and I have found a rich resource for “landscape” abstractions that energizes me and seems limitless in its potential.