Hills Like White Canvass

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Art doesn’t always give an instant impression. Sometimes we like things for purely aesthetic reasons, only to later go back and find a deeper meaning, or to find our tastes have changed. In art forms that require writing we can hide behind the language, the wit, the anger; we can hide behind simplicity, volume, and linguistic parlour tricks.  The medium itself gives us many masks with which to distract the audience from our true feelings. In film we can dazzle with dialog and colors, and sheer photographic composition. In painting we must refine what we want to say in a single moment, a single breath, with no words. Not unlike a photographer, a painter pulls from the greater temporal space of life and captures a millisecond of human experience. The difference is a painter starts from scratch.

Some painters deal in the abstract, in design, in symmetry and lack thereof. But, some painters use the substance of the human condition and the world around them to create their art. One such painter is my friend M.E. Frankenstein. (Check out her portfolio here and like her page.)

Whether we intend to or not, our themes shine through when we create consistently. In browsing Frankenstein’s portfolio we see single buildings, lonely birds (perhaps too bashful to speak up?), a goldfish in a bag (dependent or suffocating?), and a walker in the snow. They all share common threads: negative space, yearning, and isolation. At first it seems like the voice of an artist in desolation, masked by colors and lighthearted imagery. But, then comes the snowboarding.

In this series Frankenstein has found a subject matter that implements the aforementioned techniques and themes and finds something new to explore. In “Berthoud Backcountry” a snowboarder looks up at a mountain after a downhill run. The longer we study the painting the more we expect unseen trees and hills to rise beyond the crest of pine in the distance, or the mist on the horizon to reveal a mountain we didn't know was there (a visual trick that is perhaps a commentary on procrastination and over-thinking; the more we wait, the more the task seems indomitable). In “Loveland Pow” we see a snowboarder in red racing down a hill of white, mouth open and laughing, celebrating the moment of victory against a former tormentor (an interesting note is the splash of red – a contrast that marks a break in form). Both paintings include solitary figures, and M.E. seems to have gone to great lengths to make the landscape feel silent and isolated.

At some point we all look up from the bottom of a hill at the long climb ahead – starting a new job, a new relationship, a new house, a new workout regime in an attempt to get in shape. We all face the uncertainty of the blank page at one time or another. By accepting that it is only ourselves against the vast white, the silence grants us the audacity to face it with accountability only to our own vision. M.E. Frankenstein’s snowboarders remind us that life can only be carved of the path we define, navigating all landscapes with equal care, and that while these moments may at first resonate with isolation and fear we must face off against the mountains in quiet challenge and embrace the exhilaration of solitude.

I’ve never snowboarded, but I like to think this is what it feels like.

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