Saturday, November 14, 2009

I love Nell Blaine

Since the last pages in my hands before I turned the lamp off last night, were from the book on Nell Blaine (1922-1996) I'd begin with what passed my mind with them.

She's best remembered for her table-top still lifes and sun-dappled interiors and landscapes. At first glance, what you see are near violent brushstrokes, storms of colors, which simultaneously convey cheer and chaos. Yet, a calmer heartbeat on the viewer's part, aided by a bit of distance of time and space, reveals that they are everything but chaotic. As the eye surveys the work's entirety, the underlying structure emerges, almost miraculously, out of the high-keyed colors and intertwine patterns.

I like the little drawings in India ink and watercolor alongside the paintings included in this book. They tell me of an inquisitive, yet disciplined mind that's Nell Blaine. I can feel her command of the difficult media, her earnest eyes seeking out patterns and spaces, decisive, intelligent, but always spontaneous, though her paintings speak a different sort of sensibility: delight and joy in the act of seeing.

You never get a feeling that she's academic; she works outside of the mode of the shopworn and the schooled. One must know and remember that she lived in the age of Abstract Expressionism, closely followed by the onslaught of Pop. Indeed she began as an abstract painter, the career of which taught her color interaction and harmony without the distraction of recognizable objects.

I have tremendous respect for Blaine, whose name I first learned from an insert of a phone/address book themed Women Artists, which I picked up at a TJ Maxx store some six or seven years ago. The cover is a still life of daffodils by Blaine: lush, sensuous, but strangely and subtly restraint. That's right, mind you, not excessive, like some formulaic colorists', Matisse-wannabes' stuff you see in posters and calendars. That juicy, lopsided, near-deformed, artless, deep purple fruit in the foreground took possession of my psyche, and began my quest for, and cyber friendship with this gusty artist.

And since I acquired this monograph, I've been satisfied with learning her life's story as well: a remarkably strong, independent, woman who followed her art instinct into a path of adversity and devotion. She was considerate, grateful, never whiny or ugly. I find myself turning to her pictures over and again for guidance, for lessons as general as clarification of the vision, as concrete as the positive use of paint across the canvas.

She's a good and faithful teacher every time I turn to her. I love Nell Blaine.

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