Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shimmering Air

Shimmering Air, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

The Hummingbird

It’s morning, and again I am that lucky person who is in it.
And again it is spring,
and there are the apple trees,
and the hummingbird in its branches.
On the green wheel of his wings
he hurries from blossom to blossom,
which is his work, that he might live.

He is a gatherer of the fine honey of promise,
and truly I go in envy
of the ruby fire at his throat,
and his accurate, quick tongue,
and his single-mindedness.

Meanwhile the knives of ambition are stirring
down there in the darkness behind my eyes,
and I should go inside now to my desk and my pages.
But still I stand under the trees, happy and desolate,
wanting for myself such a satisfying coat
and brilliant work.

- Mary Oliver -

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Origin of Fire

Escalante II, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Music is a big part of the creative process for me. I usually listen to the same piece of music over and over again while working on a particular painting or series. For these paintings, I chose to listen to "The Origin of Fire," a medieval chant by Hildegard von Bingen and performed exquisitely by the group Anonymous 4. The repetition -- not only from the structure of the chant, but also from the whole piece of music -- reminds me of the temporal structure of the grid itself; the repetitive process of creating each small rectangle while at the same time engaged with the whole image as a thoughtfully considered composition. The music surrounds me and inspires the contemplative atmosphere such work demands.

Escalante III, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

The Escalante region of Canyonlands, Utah, is the inspiration for these paintings. It is my favorite place on earth. I love watching the sun rise and set over the mysterious red rock formations, and being so far away from any other living human, I drink in the silence and solitude. It is my heaven.
My grid paintings are a distillation of the landscape into a living, breathing object of its own -- in this case, the red rocks, the silence, the fragile desert plants, the footsteps of mountain goats and chipmunks.... Sleeping in that wilderness brings my attention into utter harmony with the fact of life on earth and the mysteries that lie beyond the glittering stars.

Escalante IV, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

"And I -- a human being neither afire
in my form with the strength of strong lions
nor familiar with their exhalations,
but constrained by the fragility of the weak rib
and flooded with mystical inspiration --
saw something like the most brilliant fire,
incomprehensible, inextinguishable,
all alive, and all filled with life,
having within itself a flame the color of air."

-- Hildegard von Bingen, Vision 1: The Fire of Creation,
from The Origin of Fire