Every so often on the journey of life, one reaches seemingly impassable terrain. In January of this year, Scott Conary’s wife gave birth to a girl with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Within a few days, she endured the first of three surgeries to be spaced out over her childhood. Scott describes the surgery as something from science fiction, and the experience of those weeks of raw fear and unreal, unavoidable processing of each family member’s pain as akin to stopping a train.
How does the creative person navigate such shifts in their personal landscape? Scott’s paintings are at once straightforward and mysterious: figures stand in undefinable communication with each other, and farmhouses might be placed on only semi-recognizeable land. When describing his paintings, he writes that he tries to create a “solidity” in the play between the subject matter and how much he enjoys using the paint itself as subject matter. Where, then, is his new reality, as the fragile child that he loves is subjected to tangles of probes and tubes. She was given the name Analogue Jane in reference to her eventual ability to escape these impositions of her surgery. His painting is “driven by a love and curiosity of the natural world and how we live within it.” As his internal creative narrative incorporates a new character, how will his dry and kind sense of humor assist him in the description of this beloved new life?
Scott will be opening his studio again in October. Be sure to check out his portfolio at Conary.org.
“When it comes to me talking about my work, it’s so simple, I just love capturing emotion through an expression or through movement. Evoking the essence through light and shadow, through as little information as possible.”
— Alexandra Becker-Black
Nothing sums up Alexandra Becker-Black’s work and her being as succinctly as that. She is a woman of few words, colors and lines, just enough to say what she needs to say and to give you enough room to interpret and imagine on your own.
From her chosen subject matter to her art-making process, all extraneous materials have been stripped away until there is nothing left but light and shadow. Then very slowly, she retrieves them, one by one, but only as necessary.
Becker-Black has been obsessed with the human form since childhood. One of her earliest memories is that of her drawing a woman’s face. From there, she became interested in the figure. But her artistic calling was not revealed to her in quite that straight-forward a manner as that.
At the beginning, her work was more about the fashion figure where subtle movements, emotions and essence were cloaked beneath layers of clothing and accessories. Then, through her study of yoga, she became interested in anatomy, musculature, and their beauty when in motion.
So she stripped away the camouflage, decorations and colors, and started working with the nude figure in motion, in graphite or in neutral watercolors. Using a camera, live models, lights and a blank white background, she captures those movement that come and go in the blink of an eye, that can imply emotions and actions that statically posed models can not.
Once recorded, she works with the still images but continues to purge from the already naked form, choosing only what she needs and adding only what is absolutely necessary. You see muscles tense and strain against gravity; you see figures in serene repose; you see energy suddenly released when a small flock of birds fly out of a woman’s opened hands. All of this is conjured up in front of your eyes even as a torso fades to gray or a leg disappears, creating work that is ethereal and luminously beautiful, haunting, evocative and complex.
Although ‘simple’ appears again and again in Becker-Black’s own description of her work, there is truly nothing simple in her work or her method. As anyone who has tried to simplify their lives can attest, it is a difficult and complex process to come to an understanding of what we truly need. And at only three years out of Rhode Island School of Design where Becker-Black received her BFA, she has achieved a great deal in her understanding of the often repeated but rarely understood phrase ‘Less is More.‘
Alexandra Becker-Black is one of two recipients of the Kimberly Gales Scholarship for Young Artists this year. She is #42 in the roster of 100 artists on the 2010 Portland Open Studios tour. During the 2nd and 3rd weekends of October, you can watch her create her work in her lovely tree-nestled studio in NW Portland.