Editor's Note: Written by JDY just as spring was trying to arrive, but winter held it back. I'm finally posting Johanne's essay as her sunflowers will be on exhibit at Shearer Chevrolet in South Burlington starting this week. May 1 - June 30, 2013. Opening Reception: May 10, 6-8 pm
A Personal Essay: Contemplating Abstraction
by Johanne Durocher Yordan
On a sunny day in my studio I sat and thought about what I wanted to work on next. I had just finished up an 11-piece series titled “Contemplation” and I was trying to figure out what my next body of work would be. While lost in my thoughts, a friend stopped by. She had never been to my studio and had not seen all of my work. She was amazed and seemed to loved all of it, but then she stumbled on my portfolio of past work. Prior to 2006 I worked primarily with watercolor, painting landscapes and still lifes. This portfolio held the series of sunflowers I had done and she fell in love with them.
As much as I would love for everyone to love and understand my abstract work, I realized a long time ago that not everyone does. I myself was not a fan of abstract work until 2006 so I cannot fault anyone for not “getting it.” All I can do is help people understand where the inspiration for my work comes from.
After finishing “Contemplation” I knew I wanted to do something different, that I needed to step away from the style of painting I've been doing for the past six years. When this friend of mine saw the sunflowers, her exact words were, “Now this work I can relate to. I love it, it is just more me.”
After my friend left an idea started to unfold – my next series would once again be sunflowers. Many people have been asking if I would ever do another sunflower series so I thought that the timing was perfect. The catch? That I needed to stay true to myself as an abstract painter. These paintings would not be in watercolor and would have to be done in an abstract way; they would need to be a reflection of who I am today as an artist, but with a twist. I also knew that I didn't want to work using only acrylic paint, but also wanted to use paper and/or mixed-media. So off I went to purchase my canvases. They needed to be smaller than the canvases used in the body of work that I had just finished (primarily 30x50) so these would drop down to 24x24. I had also started a collection of papers, newsprints, sheet music and maps.
I have used Vermont maps for several of my pieces; they have given my work much more interest and have a “close to home” feel to them. I think people will find them interesting and may even find where they live in the background or on some of the petals. As I develop my idea and my composition, I then start to tear my paper into many different sizes and the appropriate shapes for the sunflower petals. I work my painted background first and when I feel the background will coexist well with the idea that I have, I then adhere the paper to the canvas.
I apply a thin wash or two with paint, but not enough to hide the paper that I've used. The paper selected for each piece is very important and is a unique element of each one. I paint the stem and leaves on some of them but have also used paper to do
this as well. The sunflower that I look at everyday seems to make this cold, harsh winter seem non-existent in my studio: it represents hope and beauty.
This body of work has been refreshing to do and has been a much needed break from the more emotional work that I have done. Branching out and trying new things is what keeps artists “fresh” , there is nothing wrong with developing and trying new techniques and applying these newly found concepts to your work, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Johanne Durocher Yordan
Edge Of The Unknown
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