I created my set of paintings "Old Poem" and "New Bloom" during a personal transformative moment in time. I had just started working in what is now my permanent studio upstairs. After having found every nook and cranny in my new house that I could squeeze into and create (with the least amount of sheetrock dust), I finally had the studio put together enough that a temporary desk and my massive printer could fit in it. I was happy to have my own space, but I still felt out of place in what was supposed to be my sanctuary.
I realized that I was feeling out of place with my artwork, too. It wasn't reflective of my latest interests and inspirations. It was an old self that I was continuing to operate under, in fear that a stylistic change would be rejected amongst my patrons. "I need to stick with one thing, this is the image I've created around my name" is what I thought. But as we can all see plainly from great artists of our past, they too transform themselves, and I was ready for a little reinvention. I took this portrait of myself in the natural light of the studio at the end of a workday, and it served as the reference for my set~
I am, and have always been, a collector of things. I seem to always create spaces around me that feel eclectic; it brings me joy, I find deep comfort in it. So I had to think to myself, why not create art in a way that celebrates my eclectic passion? Starting with "New Bloom", I began building the landscape around this character, creating forms that felt organic, dancing between patterns, comingling bold and delicate forms. I felt like I was breaking new ground while letting myself interact with this piece, and I think that her setting reflects that.
It was very experimental as I played with gouache, watercolor, and acrylic ink- I was watching the way these mediums, all similar but unique, interacted with one another. Sometimes I'd drip water on the page to see what it did. I let paint drip down the page. Then I watched where the drips travelled when I turned the paper upside down, guiding them only a little. I adapted to the paths they took and where they stopped.
The white colored pencil I drew in is a medium that typically gives me a lot of control, but I also chose to treat it freely as I did with the watercolors. I did not plan out my drawings in pencil first, as I typically would. Using the drip to the right of the woman's face as a stalk, I started at the center of the large flower and started drawing each petal out, the way a flower would bloom in real life. I drew another massive bloom that overlaps the figure's chest and collarbone. It is so hard to see unless you are looking closely at the painting in person, and I liked this hidden element, as I hide many things in my work. Leaves subtly fan out around the figure as well.
Seeds masked out in liquid frisket at the bottom of the page bloom and scatter in the wind at the top of the page. I felt, by the end of this, that I had merged my conscious will to transform myself with subconscious refection, which brought me to my second painting (chronologically the first), "Old Poem":
While I exercised more control in this piece so that it could mirror "New Bloom", I still let my layers interact organically where they could. I chose to draw evening primrose in white colored pencil. They grow happily in my garden, concealing showy blooms until it is dimmed outside, which feels so personal.
I wanted this piece to symbolize a near-dream state of introspection. It was my mind knowing change was on the horizon but searching for it. I chose a cool color palette to depict that calmer, colder state of being before the bright awakening of "New Bloom". A pattern of wilting florals at the bottom of the page represents the petals that shed so that a new flower can replace it. They are bordered by a reflective pool, and then written word. This was the first time I chose to use my late grandmother's poetry in my work. I had been recently been reading her books to find solace, as I had been struggling to adapt to my new life in my new home as a new mother. I picked this poem, "I Bathed In Moonlight", as follows:
"The rusted metal shower is all that's left
other fixtures curtains and the moldings
from those long windows are gone
Still at night I come undress by dim reflected light
get plaster dust between my toes shiver nipples tight
and enter at a touch through those complaining doors
Heat sharp and total on my back and dinning on the tin
expel the tension of another day and clean away
mistakes and dirt
Last night again the ritual but very late
and strange that only slowly I perceived
the moonlight and the moon full bright
within the naked window frame
I opened up the groaning doors
and puddling the ancient floor
I became young and Greek and watched
the diamonds dripping on the softness of my breast"
-Rosemary Ix Morgan, 1998
I painted an ethereal pattern of fireflies close to the woman's head, as these are what I would watch flickering through my window as a child before drifting to sleep.
When the two paintings are set beside one another, you can really see all of the intersections and reflections that were my mind's composition when I made this work. I hope you enjoy seeking and spotting each little detail in them, with love, Rose.