Monday, March 8, 2010

cross pollination

My mother loved african violets. At one time, years ago, she had a collection of over 100 different plants. Not long before she passed away, I brought two of them home. One was a large "double white", and the other was a "single deep pink." Over the years I've propagated these violets from broken leaves and have separated countless plants into new pots to give to friends and family. Currently, on a shelf over my kitchen sink, I have some beauties. One of them is kind of magical to me. I'm no biologist, and can't explain how it happens, but somehow I've grown a "double shell pink." It is obvious to me that by some alchemy the deep pink and the white have come together in a masterful new creation.

This cross pollination can also occur in art. An artist never lives in a vacuum, and if you are like me, you look at art everywhere: museums, galleries, on the web, in friend's studios, and in a different way, in nature and architecture. Ideas and images recirculate, inseminate and birth new creations continually. My work may not be directly influenced by one other artist, or one school of thought, but when I am drawn to a person's work, or a particular viewpoint, my explorations can impact how I think when I am composing a new painting.

Recently, I was delighted to come across access to podcasts of Artist Talks available for free on the internet from the Art Institute of Chicago.

I immediately gravitated to the talk given by Rhonda Wheatley on Cy Twombly, an artist whose work has always intrigued me. As I listened to Wheatley, I found her web site ( which illustrated for me the compelling connections between her work and that of Twombly.

Artists may share the same stimuli and explore identical themes, yet processing the information through the filter of their own experience, they produce unique work. Like my double shell pink african violet, the influences of border plants have had an effect, but the outcome is an uncommonly lovely flower.