A lot of what I paint is a product of sensory perceptions. There is something about the things I choose to paint that are inspired by one or more of my senses: hearing, vision, taste, smell, or touch. As I have mentioned before, Mother Nature is and has always been a teacher/mentor to me in my inspiration of what I paint. My painting of Southern Icon captures most of those.
The Magnolia. Wikipedia describes the magnolia as "an ancient genus, appearing before bees did, the flowers are theorized to have evolved to encourage pollination by beetles." That sounds good and very educational, but I just know that they stimulate wonderful feelings in me. I heard someone say that the sense of smell can evoke more memories in our brain than any of the other senses. Well, when the month of May comes, I think I can smell magnolias before I can see them. Even before I see them, the smell initiates the excited feeling of childhood. Memories of wonderful days of getting to go barefoot and walk through the grass, longer days of playing outside late into the evenings till almost bedtime, the sound of children laughing and playing outside, the sound of a bat hitting a ball as the summer league practices begin, the anticipation of the school year ending, the smell of food on the grill and outside eating. All of this through the smell of those flowers beginning to bloom.
Then there is the feel of those beautiful petals. I was always warned not to touch them, or they would turn brown. I touched them. I knew they turned brown on their own. I loved the way they would elegantly age into an antique patina before dying. I liked to feel the smooth white petal that curled on the edges, as if a comfortable blanket that you might wrap yourself into.
Then there is their appearance. Their white color when they open is like the color of cream poured into a hot cup of coffee; rich and inviting and warm.
The Magnolia. Some might consider the subject matter as trite. But to paraphrase Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolia, "all good Southern women grow tomatoes" ... "all good Southern artists have painted a magnolia"! I have painted several in my art career. One of the first is a branch of the magnolia tree with magnolias reaching upward towards heaven in a very regal pose. Another was done many years ago and it hangs in my house. It is an example of a sensory perception, or more of an emotional perception. When I started it, something incredibly sad happened to a beloved family member during its creation. As the painting evolved the emotions I felt were expressed in that dark painting. I can feel those emotions of sadness when I look at it. I call it My Dark Magnolia.
Then there is the one I have shown at the heading of this blog piece, Southern Icon. I saw the bloom while on a walk with my dog through my neighborhood park. There it was, right at eye level, fully open and inviting me into its center. I was in the middle of a collection of paintings on the exploration of the colors of white. I know that the composition of this piece resembles the works of Georgia O'Keefe and I admit with admiration her influence on many of my paintings. I had seen an exhibit of her works titled, Living Modern, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York. I saw a quote by her that says:
"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world
for that moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people
in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at the flower. I want
them to see it whether they want to or not."
That expresses exactly how I feel about this painting. I see it and I am in its world and I want you to be in its world.
My latest magnolia painting is small. I even titled it, Small Glories: Magnolia. I painted it during the isolation of the Covid pandemic. The Georgia O"Keefe quote above expresses exactly how I felt about the flowers in my yard during at this time. The flowers became my world...my friends. They ignited all those "sensory perceptions" in me. A good friend bought Small Glories: Magnolia from me and gave it to her daughter for Christmas. Her daughter lives in Oregon and she said all "Mississippi raised girls" need a painting of a magnolia. I do not know about that, but I have one hanging in my house. I feel sure I will find inspiration to paint another magnolia in my career. Because just as May always comes along and with it comes that scent. That scent that ignites all my sensory perceptions and with it my passion to create the world in that flower.
Small Glories: Magnolia
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