The Shakti Series
Shakti is Sanskrit for the divine, female force of creation. I began the Shakti Series in 1996 after a trip to Tibet, Nepal, and India. The essence of the work is color light and pattern. The paintings are built of layers of color which create a visual and energetic harmonic similar to a musical chord. The actual mark making is highly spontaneous and energetic but curiously, as the layers build, the cumulative effect quiets and becomes almost meditative.
For many years I have been naming these paintings with fragments of text- usually from poets, authors or songwriters. I extract a few words that exclude content or narrative but suggest a feeling or visceral experience. This open-ended experiential quality of the titles reflects the work and allows the viewer interpretive freedom.
The Text Series
The text that inspired and then identified the work by title finally entered the work itself and became an integral part of the content. Structured by a grid format, the unadorned letterforms contribute to another layer of patterning within the painting. This formal, abstract arrangement of letters is emphasized by eliminating punctuation and running the words together so that the content is not easily discerned. It is important to me that the text first is perceived as part of a painting and secondarily, as words.
The words, however, do matter. Culled from various sources and cultures, the text fragments express underlying values, ideas, and beliefs which are provocative, arresting or spiritually potent. They are carefully selected from the on-going tsunami of data so that they might stand alone once again and be reconsidered. Looking at a painting is an opportunity to resist our fast-forward world; it is an opportunity to stand and consider. The text is another layer to absorb in it’s literal and metaphoric depth- as well as its surface.
The Drip and Pour Series
This group of paintings may or may not have text. One way to explore my work is through process. The process of dripping evolved into its own expression and became another layer of patterning. To achieve fluidity and opacity, I introduced high-quality house paints to my artist acrylics.
In time I wanted to work with larger areas of color. I wanted to POUR, so I needed even more potential flow. Due to the size of the areas- I now wanted at least some of these to be translucent adding complexity to the layered expression. I began using different combinations of acrylic painting mediums.
Because of these developing processes and materials, there is quite a bit of experimentation. The paint mediums I use make determining the final color almost impossible to predict. The pouring itself is physical and dicy as well. As I tilt and move the canvas to facilitate the ‘pour’ and prop it different ways as each individual color dries. eventually, the final color is revealed. The process is extremely intuitive and erratically spontaneous. The paintings have a diaphanous quality, the feeling IS the content.
Grid Series [Leela]
Throughout my career, I have always made collages. Some large work I was ‘done with’ and decided to cut up- and then work the fragments. I often added another medium. Some collages I made from found objects and papers collected on international trips- or on walks in the woods, like a broken chain on a trail…some were made solely of broken glass which I never broke again- just used it as it was, some were made of buttons or money- or antique postcards or cleaner tags. I used dryer lint and dog hair and flowers- and leaves which dried and fractured apart over time. I cut rubber blocks to print with and used ready-made Indian wooden ones. I sewed on paper- I used commercial advertising memorabilia and torn pockets and old wrapping paper and Japanese shop bags and vintage wallpaper. I used and will use just about anything.
My grid work is collaged, painted, encausticed and printed. It is on paper and canvas and masonite. I began this over 30 years ago and am still at it.
I call this the Leela series. Leela is Sanskrit for divine play. In the Hindu tradition, it describes the dynamic creative force behind the ever-changing illusion of this world of matter. Leela is the headwater of the rushing, tumbling compelling river- Leela is behind the ride of our lives.
Text from the I am the Loon painting
She said I am the glacier
She said I am the fish
She said I am the loon
She said I am the wolf
She said I am the night
She said I am the fog
She said I am the fire
She said I am the mountain
She said I am the power
She said I am the earth.
excerpted from “Beneath the Proud Raven” copyright 1982 by Jana Harris from
Manhattan as a Second Language and Other Poems, Harper and Row, San Francisco