Telling a Painting’s Story (Provenance)
Sometimes a painting collects an interesting provenance early in its life. Little Squalicum Beach Clouds is just such a painting.
Last spring I began painting sky studies. For a number of reasons I had started paying more and more attention to the upper realm as a subject. Rilke liked using clouds and sky as metaphor for the unsayable, the uncertain and the unknowable. I liked that. Also, reading about Diebenkorn set me off on trying to understand what he was referring to when he talked about the amorphous: that underlayer which he so wanted to conceal and reveal in his paintings. And, my natural affinity to soft edge and layers of transparent color was calling out for this subject. So, I began to paint skies.
I looked at Constable. I looked at April Gornik. I looked at Gerhard Richter. And of course, I looked at Turner. My friend A. purchased my first sky study before it was dry. There was something here for me, a way to push the paint around that was interesting. I continued to paint these studies mostly using photographic references until the day my children and I sought out the beach on our bikes and this billowing form of nimbus clouds was sitting over the skyline of Bellingham Bay. I took a picture with my iphone and tried to inscribe my memory with the particular clouds from this day.
I never feel compelled to mimic—in exactness– nature. I choose what I want from the offerings and let my imagination and desire drive the rest. The colors I use are most certainly never local. And that happened here.
A couple of collectors admired the painting for months. During a studio tour in October they were both in the gallery at the same time. And, even though she had nowhere in her home to put the painting, J. couldn’t stand the thought that it could go to someone else and she grabbed the painting up—with a little trade on my part.
A few weeks later, J’s best friend’s husband, a young man in his thirties and a world famous climber, died in a climbing accident in Tibet when a cornice collapsed. J was suddenly called upon to be a support for this terrible grief. And, in searching for a way to offer comfort to her friend, she thought of this painting: of the nest of clouds in the sky, of the place where the sky meets the mountain, of the colors that I chose to depict this scene. And she gifted this painting to her friend. A piece of art offered in solace to an unimaginable sorrow.