Tuesday, September 30, 2008


"The wide open expanse of the view,
The true condition of mind,
Is like the sky, like space:
Without center, without edge, without goal."
-- Shabkar Rinpoche

I think a lot about infinity when I work. Dark into light, light into dark, endless imperceptible shifts. Repeating the brushstroke, each an incremental unit organized into a grid, repetition becomes a way of creating an implied infinity. The brushstrokes become smaller and smaller until the grid melts away and all that's left is an ethereal cloud of color, shadows and light. The finite and the infinite coexist.

In meditation, this is the practice of letting go into the infinite expanse beyond the mind. Lama Surya Das describes the process:
Breathing in, breathing out -- rhythmic, like the waves of the sea. We are releasing, settling down and learning how to just be. Let things settle on their own, in their own time, their own way, their own place. Wherever things fall and land, let them fall into place as they will, without intervention, without artifice. Learn to let things come and go; learn to just be. This is a huge step, an incandescent lesson.
I try to enter that same spaciousness when I paint. I try to walk that egoless path, so that my painting can become something of its own being, the brushstrokes falling into place as they will. Of course, there is no painting without the mind attempting to control things, so it is a constant balancing act between these two conditions of consciousness. But I believe the more I let go and let the painting find its way into being, the more successful the painting is, and the better it can communicate to the viewer from an archetypal, universal perspective. This is my hope each time I begin a painting, and each time I finish one.

(The above quotes are taken from Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be, by Lama Surya Das, page 97.)

Monday, September 22, 2008


Consciously experiencing the seasonal shifts in New Mexico is an important part of my work. I lived in Hawaii for over a decade, and before that Tucson -- both places really have no true "autumn" or "winter" seasons. Here in Santa Fe, autumn and winter are my favorite and most inspiring seasons. The aspen and cottonwood trees are turning golden, the air is fine and brisk, the poetry of winter is closing in. The migrating birds are leaving, others are coming to find their winter homes. I am aware that these cycles of nature, and the natural balance of things, are a reflection of my own cycles and changes as a painter. Abstraction embraces all these little mysteries. Inspiration seeps in and saturates the creative moments, and somehow it all ends up on the canvas in another form -- inexplicable yet present, enigmatic yet strangely familiar. My palette changes with the seasons, too -- color speaks to me out of the realms of time and nature. The painting shown here is a mid-summer painting, bursting with life in lush green. Now, I turn my thoughts to ochres and violets, grays and umbers. When winter arrives, white will become a "color" for me, with all its trembling and delicate nuances of shadow and light. This awareness of the seasons passing is a precious, nurturing voice for my creative soul.

Green Fire, 2008, oil on canvas, 12x12 inches
© 2008 Diane McGregor

Friday, September 12, 2008


As I move forward in my search for the Ideal, the Absolute, I often seek inspiration from the work and writings of Donald Judd. Although he was primarily a sculptor, his reverence for space and light are what draw me to his work and his philosophy. When I am stuck in a painting, feeling defeated, confused, unable to see my own vision of what I long to express, I turn to the clean, open, pure vision of Judd. I regain some of my clarity and purpose as I study his work. I own a wonderful catalogue of Judd's work that I often pore over to restore and sustain my vision.

In his catalogue essay, Rudi Fuchs observes that Judd's work, and Mondrian's too, were "moments of realised conviction, arrived at by quiet, patient, emotional reasoning and probing.... Judd argued that once an artist had come to a pragmatic conclusion, based on honest practice, to give a piece a definite shape and color, that definition was not a whim of style. It was a fact that, by its very existence, became as objective as any piece of knowledge that is added to all we know in the world." This is dedication to the process of defining what it is that you feel compelled to produce, to maintain that vision without distraction, to search out with integrity and honesty your ideals of what a work of art should be. Abstraction is a serious business, requiring conviction of purpose and careful consideration, as well as solitude and privacy in order to filter out all extraneous and unnecessary impulses. This is why Judd moved from New York City to the deserted fields of Marfa, Texas. The move was to "protect his independence and to give him the space to work carefully and unhurried at his own pace." Judd knew that the competitive edge of living and creating in New York would inevitably lead to compromise. His devotion to space, light, and the integrity of the placement of each piece is what makes Judd's work so powerful and unshakable.

Chinati Foundation. Permanent installation of concrete works by Donald Judd.

(The above quotes are taken from Donald Judd, edited by Nicholas Serota, pages 17-18.)