I am in the midst of a very… interesting… semester, in which I have somehow gotten into all the classes that have NO research papers or discussion posts (online classes) required! Well, I have been itching to write a paper (yes, I like writing papers), so when my art teacher announced that we would be required to write a one paragraph response to a visiting artist’s gallery presentation, I jumped on my chance to write a bit of an essay.
The artist who showed us her work in the gallery was Elaine Rutherford from Minneapolis, though she is originally from Scotland. If you’d like to see some of the work I saw that inspired this essay, you can visit her website here: http://rutherfordelaine.wordpress.com/.
It has long been held that artists speak nonsense. And that they do. That is to say, artists love to talk about the abstract, although they are painting with concrete materials like paint and canvas and portraying concrete scenes (usually) like oceans and landscapes.
While I flatter myself that I am, for the most part, in my right mind and not floating on flights of abstract fancy, I do find it great fun to assume the mind of an artist and write a whole essay of perfectly abstract “Artist Nonsense” every now and then, simply to laugh at it afterward. Perhaps it was the lighting in my room this evening, or the juicy orange that I ate before I composed this essay, but I must say that I find my essay wonderfully ridiculous!! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and laughing at my own nonsense.
When Elaine speaks, it’s easy to tell that she’s got a “Scottish brogue.” It’s also easy to tell that she’s an artist. She talks art. It exudes from her without her even trying. But, much better than this, Elaine can do exceptional artwork—although she claims that she isn’t nearly as good as she wishes. Not only is her artwork extremely realistic and her use of tone very earthy and beautiful, but it also has a unique qualities to it that only this woman could produce—because her artwork is a part of her; pieces of her life.
When I first looked at Elaine’s paintings in the gallery (before I met her), I couldn’t understand why she would cover the roadway scenes with strange sketches of odd maps and insert little circles with different pictures in random places on the canvas. It wasn’t until I met her at the art studio at Ridgewater that I suddenly understood. Elaine was talking about her sketch book, in which she often inserts maps amidst her sketches in order to trigger memories of where she was when she had the idea for the sketch. That’s when it hit me: Elaine’s paintings are memories! Just like she does in her sketchbook, this talented artist will weave maps and other memorabilia into her highway scenes, thus creating a memory out of each of her paintings. This personal quality is one of the things that makes Elaine’s artwork unique.
The other thing that I noticed about Elaine is that she has a very active mind, and that she is highly conscious of the activity that is going on inside her head. Often all of this activity will transfer itself onto her canvas, which is why, to the beholder, it looks as if her compositions are cluttered and confused. In reality, they are just a representation of the variety of activity that is going on inside Elaine’s mind while she is painting. For example, one of Elaine’s paintings (my favorite), of a paved road leading to the mountains over which hang thick, beautiful clouds, also has white maps sketched into it, and in the very center a circle containing ocean waves. However, this is merely a representation of the fact that, while one might be heading down a rural roadway observing the landscape, that same person’s mind might also be dwelling on many other things in conglomeration. Elaine’s ability to weave this intelligence and mystery into her paintings renders her artwork very unique.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed meeting this charming Scottish woman, and I found her work to have quite a depth of personality and mystery surrounding it. While I at first thought her paintings to be strange and convoluted, after meeting Elaine and hearing about her styles, methods, and the thoughts behind her work, I saw the paintings in a new light and understood their significance and beauty. I guess that the thing about this kind of artwork: You cannot truly understand it until you have met the artist—for their work has a personality that is almost identical to their own.
As a bit of a disclaimer, I want to point out that Elaine is a very good artist, a very intelligent lady, and extremely interesting! I am in no way making fun of her or her work. I am simply making fun of my own “artist airs,” which I find very humorous.