Cynthia Hibbard, Amanda C. Sweet and Jodi Waltier talk about their new work.
Cynthia, your previous work covers a wide range of subject matter from landscapes, urban details and babies to the purely abstract. This new work is dense with botanical references. Could you talk more about the source for this work.
The botanical references in this series of prints were a perfect Covid confinement outcrop. They seemed to flow naturally from my cutting tools digging into linoleum or wood while I stared out the window of my home studio and into the dense fir forest that surrounds my house. Once my mind sort of dissolved into the forest flora I lingered there, especially after I decided I wanted to concentrate on green. That said, I’m thinking ahead to carving updated, possibly satiric versions of Renaissance-era archangels. As Emily Dickinson once wrote and countless others have observed, “the heart wants what it wants.”
Cynthia, this new work has a bit politics sneaking in. Do you see yourself continuing these gestures of political comment?
I do love some fun with politics. I once wrote for newspapers and I am never far away from news gossip and the daily disgorgement on the national political scene. And face it, no political junkie can resist the rich, fecund material of the Trump administration. It’s so odious but compelling all at once that although you may want to look away you just can’t. So yes, even though I don’t aspire to punditry, some impulsive political commentary could sneak back into my artwork.
Amanda, the duality in your work is fascinating. Any thoughts on chance vs intention? Improvised vs. composed?
Yes, I like to include both the expressive and the technical in my work. I feel it’s a reflection of myself, my human nature, and the natural environment around me. I am a restless organizer in a wild and ephemeral world. I find intuitive decision-making paired with explorations of chance processes are both freeing and stimulating.
Amanda,are there any artists that come to mind who rely on chance or intuition to complete their works?
Two influential bodies of artworks have inspired my working methodologies in the past—John Cage’s “The Sight of Silence” watercolors and etchings and the Singaporean painter Chua Ek Kay’s lotus pond series. In Cage’s work, he devised a system to randomly select from his collection of brushes and rocks to leave organic, traced expressions behind in an otherwise regimented project. Ek Kay was influenced by traditional Chinese ink painting, and he placed great emphasis on the individual brush stroke to represent the essence of his subject matter. He modernized his work by applying this way of painting to abstract landscapes. So much of his art practice revolved around a feeling; he thought of his painting as going beyond the physical world and into the metaphysical.
Amanda, Do you see these themes and methods of painting playing out in your recent work?
I consider my works to be a blend of both the perceptual and the conceptual. The expressive brush strokes in my work come from the stencils I made that are derived from past observational field studies. Those repeated marks are carried or buried in layers of sprayed paint, and it’s in that strata that the process becomes more philosophical and intuitive.
Jodi, It seems as if these x-rays resonated with you in a new way. Can you talk further about the change in your perspective towards them.
Sure. There was just one x-ray I saved, and it was the one of the fetus in utero. Back when I gathered it, I was still of childbearing age and had much life ahead of me. Over three decades later, my perspective addressing the x-ray image has had a chance to contemplate child-bearing duties, challenges and rewards from the outside looking in, as someone without a child of my own. So when adding the figures into the pieces, I thought about relationships between children and a parent and the parents themselves. It brought deeper contemplation to the works.
Jodi, the addition of those tiny black figures really change the sense of scale in these pieces. Could you talk more about this and at what point in the process did they get added?
I knew I could obtain an ethereal, atmospheric mood by employing the cyanotype process on top of the black and white monotypes and some of these small works definitely captured that. Once I located these chartpak rub-on generic humans from the flat stack in my stash, they were exactly what I was looking for. I was really tempted to work into these prints with other materials but held out for these miniature silhouettes.
Jodi, you talk about being a part of the supply line in your statement. Do you think artists play a particular role in the supply line?
Yes, most definitely! Art making is breathing, in whatever form it takes. Art feeds us. It keeps civilizations buoyant, especially in tough times. Every one of us has a taste of what it is like to ‘suck on’ & ‘be nourished by’ the supply line. We crave it. We always will.