Date of Submission
Academic Programs and Concentrations
Division of the Arts; Studio Arts
Project Advisor 1
During the first semester of my project I would bike nearly every day to historic sites in the area, estates such as Clermont and Olana. During these sessions I searched out viewpoints that were at one time intentionally designed to make one marvel at the power and majesty of the Hudson river and the catskill mountains. My work became focused around these places that hold memory and ideology in the landscape.
I used my drawings as a means of capturing and understanding the elements of the landscape as I saw them. These drawings are impressions of my surroundings often using gestural marks and mixed media in order to capture moments. I would then bring my drawings back to my studio where I would use them as notes for my paintings. In this way I created for myself a visual language through which to understand the landscape. I became very interested in seasonal change and how it affected the color world that I was dealing with in my paintings. I also became interested in how elements of one’s surroundings can change one’s perception of it. In particular I developed a fascination with trees whose monumentality and structure have the ability to fragment and abstract the surrounding world.
As I began to understand the landscape through my drawing and my first paintings, I simultaneously moved into abstraction. My abstract work is still firmly rooted in the elements of landscape, while at the same time exploring color worlds and pushing natural forms to their extreme. I started to think of forms more in terms of symbols. A shape or a line or a brushstroke becomes representative of a tree branch instead of attempting to look like the branch itself. The branches act together as a sort of web through which the world is filtered.
After completing the large work of tree branches in early march I broke my collarbone requiring surgery. I now have a titanium plate in my shoulder and six screws. I have to say that it was difficult to return to this project after such an event. I also have to say that it is very difficult to paint landscapes when you are taking vicodin six times a day. But what was not difficult for me was to think about my family and my friends and the life events that have led me to where I am at this very moment.
During this time of introspection, the focus of my project shifted. I began to think of my grandmother’s gardens. While I only vaguely remember them now, I can still picture the fields of daylilies and irises. More flowers than you can dream of. I can also see the sunflowers and tomatoes that my grandfather, a farmer from Iowa, grew in his small back yard in Norwich, NY. I began to realize that in my own family there has always been a strong tendency towards altering the landscape. I began to build my own gardens in my paintings using the visual language that I created throughout the year. I combined memories of specific moments with plants and flowers that hold strong emotional associations for me.
The ability to cultivate and nurture beauty in one’s own life is an extremely powerful tool. For me it represents hope and healing. Hope in that one has the power to effect positive change in one’s own life. Healing in that natural beauty affords me a sense of wholeness that I have only ever experienced in nature and in the process of painting. I became a gardener in my own process of healing and in the absence of beauty in my own life I was left with no choice but to create it.
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Jewett, Ava Hart, "Arboretum" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 266.