Where you are, you must begin

“I spent twenty years wandering around the world hunting ‘arty’ subjects to paint. I came back to my home town, and the first thing I noticed was the cross-stitched embroidery of my mother’s kitchen apron.” - Grant Wood (American Artist, 1891-1942)

Feb. 10 was destined to be a fruitful, art-filled day. After my morning drawing, I bid farewell to my fellow artists, thanked the model and made my way into the city. After meeting with my printer and framer, I was scheduled to preview Cross Country, a new exhibition at the High set to open the following weekend. I felt compelled that I must take in this exhibit, as many of its attributes seem like ancestral threads to my own. How could so many prolific artists have found themselves in the same place as I? And just as I’ve written before, it seems all of our stars align.

“The Power of Place in American Art-Cross Country” celebrates the very fabric that is the journey of the American artist. Featuring works from 1915-1950, the High Museum of Art exhibits the tapestry of the American landscape illustrated by some of the nation’s most notable artists of the last century. 

The panorama Mural of Talladega College encapsulates the unsupressable strength of human spirit. Photographs by Gordon Parks and Dorthea Lang capture the culminated frailty and determination of those living in rural and impoverished America, while the landscapes rendered by Stewart Davis, Maynard Dixon, and captured by Ansel Adams present new dimensions, which cause one to see farther than daily perspectives often allow. From “Yosemite Valley from Inspiration Point –Winter” (Ansel Adams, 1940) to “Staircase, Doylestown” (Charles Sheeler, 1925), these masters forged paths that continue long beyond their time. They created works that would carry forward an uncanny resemblance to future as to past.

Paintings by Wyeth’s (N.C., Andrew and Carolyn), Grandma Moses and Georgia O’Keeffe expose truths which transcend the painted borders of window frame, rock wall and steeples high above. They painted the light of their time, the shadows of sorrow, what they knew and what they saw. The quotation represented prior, echo the words of N.C. Wyeth-

“A man can only paint that which he knows. And to do that he has got to live around it, in it and be a part of it.”

Early in my career, someone once said, “paint what you know.” In recent years, I’ve been fortunate to gain great education from the master’s works. Therein, I’ve found threads which bind us all. It is in the gravel beneath our feet, the rumble of the railroad, in the brushwork of Rubens and Rockwell and in the truth of early photographs. To return to the canvas, and paint one’s time is to paint indelible impressions that will live beyond your life and mine. Evident are the artful things that comprise our days.

From Alabama farmsteads to New Orleans alleys, to the desert West, and all the faces encountered along the way, all roads bring us back to where our art begins.

 Art is Life Expressed - Sarah West, owner of the Sarah West  Gallery of  Fine Art