You are invited to Inner Freedom, acrylic paintings on canvas by Melynda Van Zee, opening Tuesday, October 5, 2021, and continuing until November 25, 2021, at the Ankeny Art Center in Ankeny, IA.
Melynda shares “In our contemporary culture, we tend to focus on finding freedom and change from outside of us as we grapple with living during times of massive change and transitions. My new body of work uses color, line, texture, and movement to explore more interior movements and shifts that encourage the growth of courage and agency to face our future challenges.”
The Opening Reception for “Inner Freedom” will be held on Thursday, October 7, 2021, from 5-7 pm at the Ankeny Art Center. Come and enjoy the new paintings, drinks, and appetizers. You can chat with me and ask questions about the work. The event is free and open to the public.
Inner Freedom, acrylic paintings on canvas, opens Tuesday, October 5, 2021, and runs through November 25, 2021, at the Ankeny Art Center at 1520 SW Ordnance Rd, Ankeny, IA, 50023. The exhibition is free and open to the public, T-F 9:00 am-1:00 pm, Thurs. 4:00-7:00 pm, Sat. 9:00 am-12:00 pm.
I think we may be in a “Gravitational Waves Moment“. Recently, I’ve been looking back at all this last year has held since the pandemic began to alter our lives. Last March I was excited to launch into a great schedule of spring-fall outdoor art fairs. I was the featured Artist-of-the Month at the Octagon Art Gallery in Ames, IA. On March 6, 2020, I gave an hour long presentation at the Business of Art Conference titled “Building & Organizing Your Art Practice & Art Business from the Inside Out”. And then, the very next week our world began to shut down.
It was heartbreaking to watch all the art fairs cancel.
But, it was much more heartbreaking to see pain and loss blanket our culture.
I’ve been painting my way through these pandemic times. I quieted my writing and sharing. I took the time to look hard and long at my mission and vision statements. I remodeled and deeply organized my studio spaces (watch for photos in the future).
These times of change and disorientation have felt tumultuous.
We’ve lived through a roller coaster experience featuring a range of emotions and thoughts.
And, now here we are…a year later. Still waiting…cautiously hoping that things will improve. Wondering how all the changes we have weathered will morph or coalesce into something new?
This winter I’ve been working on a commission piece I’ve titled “Gravitational Waves Moment”. Gravitational waves are the ripples in time and space that are generated with two large objects (like black holes or neutron stars) collide creating huge forces of energy in our universe. Gravitational waves are invisible to the eye, but are now detectable and measurable by highly sensitive lasers here on earth. In 1916 Albert Einstein predicted that gravitational waves existed, suggesting that the fabric of space could be caused to ripple by very powerful forces.
When life changes, when a culture experiences massive changes and upheaval, when things collide or form something new, ripples of unexpected energy may be sent cascading across the canvas of our lives.
Maybe we’d rather not be in this place of change. Sometimes we may want so simply squint our eyes shut, like “if I can just not look, not see what is going on, I might be able to avoid it.” But, what we turn towards and see, we can work with and even begin to work through. We can be curious about our thoughts and the emotions around the change. The collisions can invite us into the newness.
What changes might we be led to walk through?
Where might we be led into next?
What situations, patterns, relationships, or tasks might we be invited to leave behind or initiate?
Gravitational Waves Moments can redefine us and can take us to new places. They can take us on new journeys, and reveal deeper parts of ourselves. Hopefully, Gravitational Waves Moments, can prompt us into a growth trajectory creating new and expanded ripples of energy for the road ahead.
How creative people discover what to create next seems like a perplexing mystery for most people. I’m often asked, “Melynda, how do you figure out what to create?” or “How did you come up with the ideas for these paintings?”
Trust me-I understand how difficult the answers to these questions can be. During the winter months I have more flexible time, so I spend many hours in the studio navigating my own rough waters to creativity as I find my path to new work. This process sometimes feels like crossing a desert or braving the wilderness as the blank canvases are laid out before me ready for whatever is next.
Through trial and error, I start to find the answers to what is next when I dig deeper internally and spend time in the quiet. I try to give myself permission to wander into my own stories, and engage the things I’m naturally drawn to and love.
But how do artists actually do those things like “digging deeper” or “engaging the things I’m naturally drawn to?” One really important way I explore my work on a deeper level is art journaling. An “art journal” may not be really the right word for what the books I work in look like. They are more a cross of a sketchbook or notebook filled with images, color, text and sketches. For me my art journals really function as an idea generation book.
So I’ve been spending a significant amount of time lately with my art journal/idea generation books. I’ve been cutting images out of magazines, arranging and gluing images to journal pages, and then adding layers of text or paint. Somehow in this very intuitive process of selecting images I’m drawn to, arranging them with poems or written text, and adding color, I start to see themes emerge. I start to notice which colors continually attract my eye. I start to see images that repeatedly show up. This practice of art journaling helps me look inside at the things that deeply interest me. It is one key that leads me down the path to discovering my new work.
Stephen Quiller says in his book Watermedia Painting “I can walk into a museum, look at a painting, and know immediately if Winslow Homer, Edward Degas, Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, or Johannas Vermeer created it. Why is that? I believe it is because they spent a lifetime of sketching, taking notes, and studying; in short, living their art. As they matured, their marks became more distinct. There came a point when they mastered the craft of painting and let this mastery serve their power of expression. Yet they kept probing deeper inside taking risks, and finding uniquely what they had to say. They all got to the point where their knowledge of craft, their study of other masterworks and periods, served so they could most fully express their vision. In short, they got to the point where they could let their subconscious and spirit take over.”
Someone encouraged me recently that as an artist I should be noticing that I notice what I notice. I’ve been noticing lately the many reasons why I paint. There are so many reasons NOT to paint…but, why have I chosen to dedicate so much time and energy to the practice of painting?
One reason that I paint is that it is a sensory experience for me. I experience the vibrancy of the colors flowing out of the brush across the canvas and the feel of the lines pouring out as thick paint moves across the surface.
But, creating art is also so much more than that for me. When I am creating, I take the time in quiet to listen to my own internal landscape and translate it to the canvas. I allow what’s inside to flow out through my hands. I process my world in a healthy and life-giving way.
Painting is meditative and centering. It is a time for me to sift through what is important and what needs to fade away. Sometimes it is a safe place to wrestle with unknowns and mine the depths of my life experiences-the good, the bad, the gifts and the tragedies.
I take this long, hard journey deep inside my thoughts, my heart, with brushes, pigment, water, and time. I paint this inner excavation-down through the layers past all the junk that gets in the way. I take these sensory, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and intellectual journeys time and time again through the years.
The finished painting is not the journey. The journey encompasses so much more. But, the painting is an important by-product of the internal processes. Maybe it’s like the postcards sent to friends and family along the way while traveling?
So, I’ve taken these journeys…why could that matter to anyone else?
Isn’t it self absorbed?
A giant waste of time?
A waste of precious resources?
A waste of art supplies?
Who really cares?
How can a few more paintings in this world make anything different?
These questions are just the tip of the iceberg hinting at issues that creatives battle against. They are only the beginning of the thoughts that can and do haunt or stop our creativity from flowing into our world.
Because I can. Because it is part of me being alive in this world. Because it keeps me healthier. Because I am human. Because you are too. Because art reminds us of who we are. Because it helps us all to heal. Because it activates our senses. Because it reminds us that we all have stories. Because it builds community around us that helps us survive the perils of life. Because we all have the task of figuring out who we are in this world and what kind of life we wish to create. Because we are all in this journey together.
I have three exhibits available for viewing the next couple of months. Freedom from the Core is on view at the Becoming Free Semeiotic Gallery in Chicago, IL. This gallery space is a beautiful and historic church building in north downtown Chicago. The exhibit will be on view until October, 2019.
Nuances of Freedom is on view at Harvest Vineyard in Ames, IA. They will be hosting an Artist Talk & Reception on September 15, 2019 from 12:30-2:30 pm. Come join us at the Harvest Cafe if you’d like to hear more about my work.
Finally, I have my last couple of art fairs of the year this month. This weekend I’ll be Rockbrook Village in Omaha, NE and on September 22 you can find me at the Octagon Art Festival in Ames, IA. This will be my only Iowa art fair this year.