SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST is the title for this solo show giving viewers a chance to compare and contrast paintings of rich tropical flora with those from a barren desert environment. The artists studies of tropical flora extend from southern United States, through the Carribean and the rain forest of Guatemala and Mexico. Her experience studying at the ancient Mayan archaeological site of Tikal, near Hernan Cortes 1524-25 exploration route through the Peten, was extraordinary. The silence and dominance of the exuberant terrain inspire paintings in a different context--lush colors, intriguing shapes, glimpses of another ecosystem of easy survival for florae.
Jack in the Beanstalk and Green Tusks are intimate views of another life force. In the former, the light is directed at the joining of the stems to the trunk--similar to a ladder--to guide Jacks way up the mythic beanstalk. In Green Tusks, the light flickers through the heart of the Tillandsia; showing the new shoots, knurled spikes and the writhing of the stiff petals to attract sunlight.
Fourth of July tries to capture the bold sweep of a tiny Tillandsia in bloom. It is a marvel of vibrating energy and movement, indicated by the puffs of purple. Roman Candles is an imagined colony of the same family of Tillandsia forms, interacting in fluid response to a slight breeze. In the middle of the composition, new growth competes with more mature stalks, wearing headdresses of pale petals. Glorioso and Purple Pineline(from the Point 2004 Exhibit) are part of this series.
Golden Girls, a corolla brigade, developed from the Butterfly Plant, zooms out of the murky background toward the viewer like a favorite pet. Flashing lights define Avant Garden, as blossoms on the Bleeding Heart vine are pierced by a brilliant sun, turning the fuchsia to a hot white. The interior of budding shapes and under lighting creates a soft glow beneath a sharp dagger of reflected light above.
By contrast, the florae of the High Sonoran Desert(central Arizona), surrounded by sand and overbearing boulders, hug the shadows. The five boulders comprising Desert Coyote are twenty to twenty-five feet high and show the uneven reflected light bouncing off a rough, eroded surface(exfoliating granite). In order to portray the depth and three-dimensionality of these huge boulders, the black shadows are flecked with highlights of varying sizes of stones. Along the coyotes underbelly the effect is of a coarse sandpaper sliding into a decomposing skeleton.
Desert Manatee shows the phenomenal balance of boulders subjected to differential erosion and their accidental imitation of forms from human culture(petro-icons). The artist is constantly challenged to paint believable compositions of unbelievable images.
The same incredible balance observed in the rock formations can occur in the florae. The Blue Candle cactus, the central element in Desert Garden, appears at risk of toppling over the prickly pear to the right. Cacti have no roots underground and rely on their ribbed torsos for water storage. In a drought, the ribs squeeze together like an accordion to conserve water--the sprouting pups add to the water supply. (Under an unrelenting sun, the body of the Blue Candle is modeled in light and shadow, many) details are simply bleached out of the visual scale.
On the right, the Engelmann Prickly Pear, a favorite of the southwestern javelina(whole pads are eaten in a single gulp), grows special knots to attach its sharp spikes. Once a year the pads produce startling yellow, paper flowers. On the left, the spikes of the Grizzly Bear Prickly Pear give the impression of long, white whiskers which, surround the pad to discourage crawling predators. A bright burst of delicate pink petals appears annually at the whiskers edge.
In many ways the Cholla Colony at Pinnacle Peak, summarizes the 6--year experience of living and painting in the High Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The artists studio was a 6,000sq. acre desert of slag mountains, shown in the middle ground of the painting; and Pinnacle Peak in the background, capped with rocks that are more resistant to erosion. The Chain Fruit Cholla, in the foreground gives the appearance of a small tree, but is actually composed of long, barbed cylinders that produce shorter barbed cylinders and finally circular barbed appendages called fruit. There are no leaves, only spikes; no trunks, only large cylinders covered with needles.
Unlike a tropical environment, where seedlings or small shoots are easily regenerated--the long years of adaption for the desert florae can be destroyed forever in a nanosecond.
Joyce Bailey is a Premiere Portfolio member at absolutearts.com. View more of her work at: http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/j/jbaileystudio/
Jack In The Beanstalk
48 x 60 x 2 inches