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Debra RushfeldtFebruary 11 - April 8, 2017
ARTIST STATEMENT BY DEBRA RUSHFELDT
This exhibition of drawings explores the subject of being grounded. I explore, by examining the ground of ordinary objects, that which allows us to move outside the ordinary. I focus on visualizing weight, repetition and pattern, and work to capture something special in the subject matter. I try to bind the ordinary to the extraordinary without losing ground, without forgetting what grounds us every day. It was out of facing this challenge I came to understand that in humble and simple objects we can realize something mysterious, something larger, perhaps even something heroic.
The subject matter of these works belong to my personal world, to my emotional bond with my environment, and to my awareness of the significance of my “ground” not only as physical, but as idea and emotion. I call upon an aesthetic of the old and discarded, for example; the aesthetics of wabi sabi ask us to re-evaluate such objects. Thus, I also call upon the very purposeful idea of exposing the beauty of imperfection, of that slight alteration which draws both eye and mind to something larger.
Turning stones into boulders by use of scale, and attempting to capture a sense of their weight with charcoal pencil was quite satisfying and very grounding. Gardens, fresh water, firewood and reclaimed building materials were subjects I chose to illustrate the richness of country life and the emotional connection we have to the earth or ground. Chains may offer up associations of locking and even enslavement, but I have chosen to connect to a sense of my personal grounding. The drawings came out of a simple act: my daily weight-training routine, a routine that keeps my mind and body strong and grounded. In short, I have tried to undo the usual metephors of things and ground them in the personal. The drawing “Still” shows a bird trapped and grounded by ordinary but tragic circumstances, thus becoming part of the extraordinary, a metaphor of melancholy, a reminder that death is ever present in the personal and the hear and now. The bird, too, has long been a metaphor for freedom and creativity itself, and, as with the chains, I use that metaphor and yet seek to ground it. In short, I do not dispense with the traditional metaphoric value of these objects, but seek to ground them in the personal.
In other drawings I manipulate scale. I re-scale stones into boulders and posts into pillars, capturing their massive weight and their inherent belonging to the ground. Gardens and forests, also part of our ordinary ground, sustain and delight us, and I look at the detail and particulars of such growth. I try to find the newness and abstract patterns in firewood and decaying building materials, because these ordinary things are part of the richness of rural life and my profound sense of being grounded in that environment. I try to overturn standards, metaphors or tropes and manipulate them to turn their value inward, to ground them in idea of self.
My choice of charcoal as a vehicle of expression also has a grounding. I chose charcoal because it seems for these subjects the most natural and grounded tool. The simple and direct process of charcoal pencil to paper, evokes a sense of the grounded and being grounded. Charcoal allows me that expressiveness. It serves to evoke mood and even sound, a certain quietness necessary to my own sense of being grounded. The process of mark making allowed me to create a surface rich, dense, textured, and, I hope slightly and delicately flawed, reflecting the nature of my “ground”, my awareness. In exploring the ways that charcoal can express light, shadow, weight, and line, I could lose myself in the details of my drawings, both the process and the subject. I found myself hoping sincerely to release the beauty of the ordinary by trying to capture it. Perhaps therein lies one paradox of creativity for me: I needed to ground my subject and myself in order to find the most effective way of releasing an object’s inherent spirit.
The influences on any artisit’s work are probably too many to count, and I will therefore limit myself to three whose specific influence has probably been the most powerful with regard to this exhibition. The tool drawings of Jim Dine and the symbolic importance they have for him. Robert Longo’s charcoal drawings of bombs and waves, and his scale manipulations. Also, the minutely detailed realism of Mary Pratt, and her ability to take her subject matter out of the ordinary and into the realm of the meaningful and sometimes sacred.
I quote Jim Dine who said ” I try to make paintings that are about painting.”, and I too feel ultimately my drawings are about the process of drawing, and how grounded it makes me feel.