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The Princess Saves Herself is a conceptual title for a non-conceptual body of work. This project has been about self- preservation for me. Chronic illness can take the wind of your sails. After a tumultuous six years on and off at Bard, I came back for a final year to finish what I started. I took the last two years off to study wildlife science, and that took a greater toll on me than I thought it would. I needed a success to show for my many years of turmoil. I knew that I had the ability and the stamina to complete a senior project, so I returned to a place I where I was comfortable and where I knew I could succeed.
In my studio I created a safe space, where I could leave my troubles and my pain behind. This project has been about detachment from the objective, and stepping into a world determined by gesture, mark, material and color. These are not conceptual works of art. There is nothing to understand, or subtext that can be deciphered. I see nothing but a world of color to get lost in. The viewers see what they want, and get lost in whatever pulls them in.
My choice of material, primarily acrylic, came from my mixed media background. Prior to the fall of 2012, I had worked on paper with wet and dry tools. After a suggestion to experiment on raw canvas, I was challenged and hooked. The unprimed canvas has a varying porosity and holds tension in unique ways. Every mark was different and difficult to predict. The variables were in the dilution of the paint, the atmospheric conditions that affected the drying process and my intervention into these processes.
This project was ultimately about play for me. By not using objects as a means of constructing a composition, I was free to let the color speak for itself – to let a natural process take place where my principal involvement was mixing the colors. In the back of my mind has been Kandinsky’s quest for total abstraction and color theory. I now know how hard and how liberating it can be to paint something without a grounding in representational art. The creation of a state of mind in which I wasn’t representing objects was not as challenging as learning to structure a successful painting without recognizable objects. I have been saved by my ability to silence the never-ending cycle of thoughts, enabling me to paint from a place of clarity and instinct.
This project has brought me joy and a sense of peace. It has saved me.
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Painter, Elizabeth Jean, "The Princess Saves Herself" (2013). Senior Projects Spring 2013. 287.
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