It was about seven years ago that I wanted to do a series of six kimono-shaped graphite drawings. Each one would be titled “Night” something. This was the one I titled, “Night Passion”. They were framed in black frames with black lined grey mats and I exhibited them twice that I can remember.
“Night Visions” is the one below and when somebody I met in a class I taught in New Zealand said she identified with it, I put it in the mail. Better to do that I think. I just rolled it up, put it in a tube and sent it off.
The next one is another one I did not alter or give away. It is titled, “Night Tides”. Each of them was fun to draw and they made for an interesting showing all together.
I liked the adventureness of “Night Tides”. Hokusai’s The Wave, Robinson Crusoe tracks, sharks waiting for the boat to tip its occupants and the small boat drifting away from the shore leaving whoever it brought there abandoned. Then there is that big clipper ship crashing on the waves. Funny how a person can get totally caught up in an idea and just keep going until there is no space left and then they have no choice but to start another one.
“Night Fall” was rain with various leaves falling…bit predictable and my least favorite (now altered into folios for a book). “Night Latch” was a commentary on how safe we feel in gated communities surrounded by those like us…all safely locked in to keep the wild ones at a distance. I sold that one. “Night Watch” was a whole bunch of different owls crammed into the kimono shaped night sky. Later I over-colored it with earth pigments for a show.
When I finished drawing these works I photographed them for a record and then scanned those images to alter slightly and re-size them for illustrating a book I called Kimono Nights. An obi like belt is the binding as well as the closure. I loved stitching into the images with a bright red thread. Here it is below.
There is something about the kimono shape. It is more than a rectangle or square and always carries the references of man and adornment. I think it would be a grand idea to have a kimono shaped tent – a place to sit in the only chair placed inside and look up to see stars made of holes and all sorts of things going on inside the canvas as well as outside. I won’t make one. Then I would have to find a way to get rid of it. But I might draw one. I might sculpt one just big enough for one to poke their head inside. I might.
These are large wooden panels of plywood on wood supports. They are heavy and framed using custom sized floating frames. Some were exhibited at the university where I received my BFA. I remember the press commentary about works in the show had as follows: “Sandy Webster certainly has a different way of using watercolors.” That was about it. My idea of course went beyond using my paints differently than anyone else.
I wanted to show how man encroaches slowly onto Nature and eventually completely takes over. So in this first panel (each of the main four are 28″ x 38″) I have painted the kimono that represents man in an innocent position of simply hung on a line in the breeze. The crow and the fish in the sea carry on about their lives.
Man is a bit more threatening here and moves forward in disguise.
Things are beginning to come removed from their proper place.
The crow has departed, and man has caught all of the ocean. The sun is getting duller.
And finally, all that the world had to offer is now worn in the clothing of man. This piece took three wooden panels to make up the kimono with the center piece being 24″ x 60″. Bit dramatic, don’t you think?
What I did like about this work was my idea at the time and the “unusual” use of watercolors. I would rub them on with a rag, let them dry and then use my electric sander to sand some of them away. Use more paint, some graphite and sand again. The use of gold leaf was what gave them some rich areas and influenced the framer on what floating frames to use.
Two of the pieces sold out of a gallery because the buyer could not decide which one to take so took them both. The large kimono and last part of the series I gave to a friend for her home where it fits perfectly and the other two (large crow body and kimono holding the sea) hang in our bedroom. I still like them.
And I still wonder what makes some ideas so important that we are willing to go to so much trouble to see it through. What I received in sales covered the cost of the framing so it certainly is not the possibility of making money from the work. I look through my studio and wonder why I am doing the work I am now.
I think that in a perfect artist’s world there is a special landfill where all this work can keep company with others – all products of artists that simply could not help themselves. Those of us who must see what that dreamed up idea in our heads will look like sitting in front of us, completely realized.
“It was a patriarchal system where men managed the means of acquisition and made the decisions which determined our lives. The woman’s obligation (and usually desire) was to ease those determinations into existence. As children we knew our place, our value, and our limitations. We also knew that we were not necessarily needed and therefore easily excused to wander and explore our natural world in complete safety and with wild abandon.”
from the artist statement about “Where I Once Belonged” – S. Webster
All the house type structures relate to where I once belonged – where I was a child. This week I lost the last brother I had – the one who I always knew was drawing something and filling his hours with making things so close to where we grew up. We would escape out the back of the house and spend a whole weekend in the woods. We used to think that if we kept drawing the Disney characters over and over then Walt himself would give us a job when we grew up. He came a lot closer to that than I did with a career in marketable artworks – wildlife paintings and sculpture of “up North.” He will be missed.
This is part of an exhibition I had out in St. Louis many years ago. There were twelve of these 3′ x 3′ canvases that I pasted bits of papers, cloth and found objects onto. Then I went into my journals – especially those writings from my times at the artist retreats that I wrote about earlier – and selected bits of them to hand write onto the work. Fragments of thought that related to imagery that also related to the month of the year. I called the series Recollections, because that was what they really were, remembrances. Here is a detail of one of them about a favorite student I had at Arrowmont. He was my eldest male student ever so far. He played harmonica, painted and made me smile, a lot. He cared deeply about things and left a me better for knowing him.
I liked this series. It was autobiographical in a way of showing things that mattered to me at the time. Then I changed it all. Painted over almost all the imagery and some of the text. Coated it with more shellac and drew birds on each one. They were part of another exhibition I was asked to have here where I live – maybe ten years ago. Several of these birds sold. Some I gave away later, and at least two are stacked in the storage room waiting for a proper disposal.
The full text (which is still a fragment of the writing) was placed underneath each bird.
The one in the middle has an interesting story. It was purchased by a couple (the wife being a good friend at the time) and hung in their home. The text referenced home, marriage, love. When a divorce ended their relationship and she wanted to take it with her, he refused. I am quite sure he never read it – just wanted to make a point. Likely now it is in a landfill. These were interesting to do because they were done over other recollections and even now are capable of telling an interesting story. Here is a detail of one.