I have been hard at work, and many of the fruits of my recent labors go on view tonight, when my latest exhibition opens at Well Street Art Gallery in Fairbanks. Only one of the 19 paintings in the exhibition is more than a year old, and most were completed in the first six months of this year. I have held off on posting images of and commentary on the latest works, so they would all be available for the show, but I've just put all the info on them into my Available Works Album which you can click on at the upper right of this page at any time, and I'll make a few comments on several of them here.
I think the most difficult challenge every artist faces, sooner or later, is to avoid making copies, and eventually parodies, of his or her own work. So though I make images of birches and the boreal forest again and again, I'm always trying to find new ways to paint them, and new things to say about them. In Kyrie and Tree of Mystery, among the paintings in this exhibit especially, I was reaching for a somewhat less literal, almost mystical quality. The looser handling of the glazes and the contrasting hues in Kyrie, I hope, contribute to my effort to capture a little of the magic of budding birch leaves in the North, straining to burst free in the burgeoning days of the first week of May. Those leaf buds appear in many of my paintings of birches, and they are always a symbol of hope, light, and new life, but I've never focused on them so directly as in this new, large canvas.
North Window, Merlin Birch, Birch and Aspen ©Kesler Woodward 2015 acrylic on canvas 20" x 10" each
When I've just finished a big painting like Chant or Branches Bare, a canvas that takes many weeks to complete, I often want to paint something small--something that will only require days. It's nice, at such times, to be able to see an end in sight when I begin. North Window, Merlin Birch, and Birch and Aspen, each just 20" tall and 10" wide, are little paeans of praise to favorite trees in my own yard, and the view out my north studio window. Birch and Aspen is a frank acknowledgment of something that few followers of my work notice, or at least remark upon--that there are almost as many aspens as birches in the scenes I paint.
Springfall: Listening ©Kesler Woodward 2015 acrylic on canvas 36" x 48"
And finally, for this post, another different kind of image in the current exhibition. Springfall: Listening is the latest in the ongoing series of paintings I'm doing in response to poems by my friend Peggy Shumaker. The yearlong "conversation" between a poet and a painter that we're engaged in is ongoing, and I've mentioned it here before and will have more to say about it in future posts, but to eavesdrop on the full conversation, you'll have to attend my next exhibition, in Anchorage in September at the Alaska Humanities Forum, which will feature all the poems and the paintings. The series continues to twist and turn in ways that surprise each of us, and all I'll say for now about "Listening Among Birches," Peggy's poem to which this painting most immediately responds, is that it begins with these lines:
Those of us still rooted to this earth
lie back on the sponge of other lives,
look up through thirteen layers of breath.
That's a frank teaser, so I'll hope you'll stay tuned, and that you may be able to attend the exhibition at the Alaska Humanities Forum, which will open on the second Friday in September.
And I hope in the meantime, many of you who read this will be able to see my current exhibition at Well Street Art Gallery in Fairbanks, which will be up throughout the month of July. Thanks so much to David Mollett and his staff for the great job they do at Well Street of supporting art and artists from Fairbanks and throughout Alaska.
Below are images of just a few more of the works in the current exhibition. As always, you can click on them to see larger images, or find all the information about them in my Available Works Album.