The Longing for the Aura of the Remembered Place

tn-article-01

After having spent the autumn of 2001 absorbing the energetic ambience of Italy, Pamela embarks on a first-time trip to the historic climes of Southern Spain. Characteristic of a personal, fragmented abstraction, Pamela’s paintings stem from both the artist’s visual and psychological observations of the physical environment. Here she talks about the unique inspiration that remains with her following the destruction of the World Trade Centre in September, and about her development and career as a painter moved by the inherent transience of physical worlds.

 

WHEN DID YOU FIRST START PAINTING, AND WHAT WAS IT THAT MOVED YOU TO DO SO?

 

I always loved to draw and remember discovering an approach to drawing called “blind contour drawing” at age 6. Drawing and painting became part of my life from that time on. My whole family was very creative. The sound of my brother’s daily piano practicing was like my home’s heartbeat, sustaining our creative efforts. My mother wrote poetry, my sister was a talented artist, and my father, a brilliant scientist, also played the oboe. I went to a wonderfully creative high school called “Miquon Upper School” in Philadelphia. It was there that I began to paint in oil from the model. Simultaneously I was enrolled in a class called “Matisse and Rilke”, and then “De Kooning”. These artists became my first influences, contributing to my first understanding of painting.

 

YOU HAVE DESCRIBED YOUR WORK AS “THE LONGING FOR THE AURA OF THE REMEMBERED PLACE.’ WHICH APPEALS TO YOU MOST, THE URBAN OR THE NATURAL LANDSCAPE? HOW IMPORTANT IS TRAVEL IN YOUR WORK?

 

Currently my favorite motif is the meshing of the two- nature as reflected in architecture or architecture reflected in nature. In the former example, my beginning point is light as seen in windows of buildings. In the latter, water rather than glass becomes the mirror. The building, instead of being the reflecting surface, becomes the object reflected.

 

Travel is very important, both for locating motifs and for inspiring new directions. When I went to Italy for one year as a student, my first goal was to paint the statuary there. While painting in the Boboli Gardens in Florence, I discovered how much more interesting it was to paint the reflections of things, rather than the things themselves. This was an epiphanic moment. A solid form will dematerialize through the effects of light and wind. Attempting to paint this phenomenon has become a lifelong obsession. Once I had painted at the Boboli Gardens for several months, I made trips to Hadrian’s Villa in Rome, and to Venice. I photographed what I saw in order to work from these subjects back in New York.

 

In New York, I attempted to seek out locations with reflecting pools. Trying to reconfigure this view in New York was by turns challenging, frustrating, and surprising. Though these properties of water and space are universal, the experiences I had in New York, or even during return trips to Italy, were never the same. Painting from a puddle in New York City, working from a photograph, or just remembering, was an experience of longing for what Louise Bourgeois calls “an echo, a re-enacting of an emotion of a distant past, an attraction to the “Other”, which has a mysterious beauty” (Uncontrollable Beauty, ed. Bill Beckley, Allsworth Press).

 

FOLLOWING THE HORRIFIC EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11 RESULTING IN THE DESTRUCTION OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTRE WHERE YOU HAD PREVIOUSLY WORKED DURING AN ARTIST RESIDENCY, WHAT ASPECTS OF THIS EXPERIENCE WILL MOST STAY WITH YOU IN THE AFTERMATH OF THIS CATASTROPHE?

 

The 18 months I spent there were very extreme. The rectilinear concrete and glass were massive and alienating. I was very uncomfortable with both heights and elevators, and I had to overcome a feeling of terror just to go to my studio. The building’s construction was such that it had movement, which was perceptible even on the 24 th floor of Tower 2. It resembled an empty parking lot. I began by continuing my series of night paintings begun previously. This left the dilemma of what to do during the day. I started by drawing fragments of the East River framed by buildings. The windows were made of a type of glass which is reflective and distorting. In the next drawing I drew only windows, painting them in vertical grids. The distortions in the glass paralleled the distortions I’d painted in water. Depending on the time of day and the weather, the forms changes, and the glass itself would oscillate. Suddenly, these two opposites- architecture and water- became similar, and I was very excited by the prospect of painting this motif in its endless variations. Returning there daily in spite of the discomfort I experienced while being there deepened my commitment as an artist.

 

HOW DID THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR STUDIO THERE AFFECT THE WORK THAT YOU PRODUCED?

 

What is fascinating is that the space, the “landscape” is inverted. Urban architecture in a city like New York is an inversion or turning sideways of what we think of as landscape. In New York, you have a hard time finding a horizontal horizon line- but if you look up, you’ll find a vertical one. So, to paint from this elevated spot was an inversion, or turning sideways, of tradition, of nature. An artist who works from a view always gets attached in some way. My ties were very extreme. My studio was empty, vast and high. I magnified what I saw. By pushing the work to an extreme, I found a statement that was very personal and described my experience of being there.

 

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

 

Recent group exhibitions have included: The National Academy of Design, Montclair Art Museum, the Tibor De Nagy Gallery, the DFN Gallery, and Bahnhof Kultur. Solo exhibitions include the Curcio/Spector Gallery and bOb in New York City, The American University in Washington DC and Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

 

Another venue has been through my affiliation with poets in New York. The poetry scene there is very connected to certain circles of artists. There is a long tradition of this at The Saint Marks Poetry Project, including collaborations between Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch, George Schneeman and Allen Ginsberg, Phillip Guston and Anne Waldman. My work has been featured in numerous poetry books, including the book “Private Agenda”, containing 11 works in collaboration with Lewis Warsh’s poems .

 

Elio Schneeman’s poetry book “Along The Rails”, features cover work by me.

 

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN YOUR WORK IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

 

Now in Seville, I am continuing a series of abstract collages based on views of water and architecture. My sources include forms I’ve never seen before- Moorish architecture, palm trees, mosaics. I’m very excited about the direction my work has been taking even in the last two weeks, since I’ve been here.

 

Lisa Jane Green,
Seville, Spain
2002