In need of a mental break from the measurable objectives and outcomes of grant writing, I duck into Cynthia Herron’s Abstract Composition in Landscape workshop for a breath of fresh perspective. Inside the sanctuary of Herron’s studio, the conversation turns to the intangible.
“Why choose to abstract something?”
Herron invites her painters to start with this inquiry to get in touch with their intentions as a foundation for composition.
“This physical stuff, the stuff we can see with our eyes and touch with our hands, this isn’t all there is. Different approaches to abstraction allow us to access ambiguity in the landscape around us, whether that’s a feeling, a state of being or an underlying message we want to share… Through abstraction we explore beyond physical things and gain access to deeper meaning.”
In Maude May’s Stitching your Story workshop, fiber artist AmyO’Connor shows me her collage-in-progress. Portraits of influential women in her life peek out through fabric frames, with her own portrait dissected like a Victorian phrenology chart at the bottom. “I’m going to embroider lines showing what parts of my personality came from each woman,” O’Connor shares. “The idea came to me at 3 a.m.,” she adds, smiling like a child caught reading a good book after bedtime, her eyes aglow.
Outside and throughout this coastal forest, the elderberries are glowing too. White flower clusters that appeared in spring are all at once transformed into red berries as if inspired by their own nocturnal illuminations.
Creative breakthroughs happen here every day. The creative process, however, is often personal and ephemeral, resistant to grant-report-bullet-point reduction.
How does one quantify the value of an epiphany?
At Sitka, the paintbrush continues to prove mightier than the spreadsheet.