Jasper Johns, an American abstract expressionist painter and printmaker, said, “Sometimes, I see it and then paint it. Other times, I paint it and then see it.”
Two artists met while taking painting classes at the University of New Mexico-Taos from instructor Gary Cook. Now, Rosalind Rosen and Rhonda Read Turner have decided to stage a show together.
“Paint” will be on view from Friday (Aug. 4) through Aug. 13 at the Stables Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. An opening reception is planned Friday from 4-7 pm.
Rosen said her work adheres to Johns’ latter idea. In his words, she explained, it’s painted and then it is seen. Rosen explained that Cook’s painting classes have given her and his other students a very supportive environment to work and explore.
“He has the most wonderful eye to see what needs to be done to a piece to make it better,” Rosen said during a telephone conversation about the upcoming show. “He also has been very flexible. I take the class to be in his company. I love the encouragement, the flexibility and the looseness to just explore.”
She explained that her work is always evolving within a process of experimentation. In this case, she explained, color is the continuing dominant element. She is also constantly drawing on her past of living overseas and said she is always open to new experiences.
“I just very often have no ideas. I just start putting paint down on the canvas, then I start working with composition, color and form. I rarely have an idea. I just put paint down on the canvas and see what comes out,” Rosen said.
On the other hand, Turner’s works in this exhibition take the first part of Johns’ statement. The paintings are something that is seen, then painted. They came from a series she calls “Altered States.” Each of the pieces appeared to her during meditation and the resulting work attempts to capture the memory of those very vivid patterns, colors and experiences. Turner said she has been amazed at how vibrant colors can seem when your eyes are closed.
“When I am meditating and very relaxed, I see colors and patterns, and that’s what my paintings are – colors and patterns of things that I’ve seen,” she said, acknowledging that idea might seem strange to the average person, but it’s an integral part of her art. She explains that Cook’s painting classes have been a very supportive atmosphere in allowing her to bring these visual states forward for all of us to see.
“It seemed like a good time to show these works because I have so many pieces,” Turner said.
“Gary is very supportive of what the individual does. He does not try to teach individual styles or techniques. He just tries to help you develop your own style and technique,” she said.
“We’ve been in this class together for six years,” Turner said. “We’re painting now in a similar style – abstracts – and over six years every Wednesday, we’ve become friends.”
Both said they are looking forward to the show and mentioned that they are pleased to be able to present pieces that represent the supportive experimental environment from which they came.
It is interesting to note that the full quote from Johns on this subject is, “Sometimes, I see it and then paint it. Other times, I paint it and then see it. Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither.”
In his mind, the only pure thing is the act of painting, regardless of the artist’s motive. He also said, “The thing is if you believe in the unconscious – and I do – there’s room for all kinds of possibilities that I don’t know how you prove one way or another.”
Neither Rosen nor Turner, they said, have anything to prove except that they have painted, and here are the paintings. Their enthusiasm for art and life and their respect for their teacher can all be found in the paint.
For more information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052.