This 9 part blog series BOUND explores the inspiration behind the stenciled words used in my paintings for the exhibition BOUND at Point Gallery, Denver August 2015. In the series, I will share my musings on these words, what they mean to me and why I selected them to be included in these paintings: SHADOW,RATIONAL MIND, COCOON, DISCERNMENT, SCREEN, HIDDEN, BODY, LOVE, and BOUND.
1. a protective or ornamental device shielding an area from heat, drafts, or view
2. Something that shelters, protects, or hides
3. a system for examining or separating into different parts
4. a flat surface onto which a picture or series of pictures is projected or reflected.
5. the surface on which an image appears in an electric display.
My original inspiration for the painting Screen came from travels to both Southern Spain and India. Visiting the many Islamic influenced structures, and particularly the Alhambra in Grenada, I was mesmerized by the delicate jali screens. Made of repetitive Islamic geometric patterns hand cut into marble, these screens would divide space within palace walls. Often their purpose would be to allow women to look out without being seen by those on the outside. These screens created a protective veil, evoking an airy sense of mystery. Even 10 years later, I can still feel the sense of wonder I had walking inside these spaces. It was like entering an inner sanctum. It was light, spacious and delicate yet strong and protective all at the same time. It was beautiful, mysterious, and lush. I wanted to create a painting that had that feel of holding something beautiful behind a screen or layer.
But as I began to contemplate the word screen, I quickly came to the more relevant meaning of the word today-the screens of our many electronic devices that continuously draw us in to a digital world. They connect us to places, faces and knowledge that would be unfathomable just 50 years back. Screens have become so imbedded in our daily life it seems difficult to imagine how we existed before our ability to connect across the globe electronically. The marble screens housed in the Alhambra and the electronic touch screen of an iphone seem worlds apart.
Yet, I see a connection. The similarity between the Islamic hand-cut marble screen and a digital screen is seduction. They both seduce us into a space, creating a shield from the outside world. Sometimes it as if a invisible screen has gone up around any individual sucked into their cell phone or tablet. Their energy and attention is in this other space, a private conversation between them and the digital world. Yet in this interaction between screen and human, the connection seems fleeting and often more disconnected than connected.
This is in contrast to my experience physically walking from outside of the palace to inside the screened enclosure as my senses awakened. The experience evoked a sense of awe, and a sense of peace that was fully alive in that moment. I am not sure I have ever experienced something similar through the screens of my devices.
And yet, I just had a miraculous but different moment. At the very moment I was typing this I received a facebook message from the artist Michael Pointer with a picture of him standing in front of my painting at Point Gallery.
In an instant I knew he was in Denver at the gallery. We have only ever communicated via our screens as he lives in Kansas. What a small miracle it is to make this human connection via the screen! And an incredibly timely example that our life with screens are complex and multi-layered bringing amazing gifts of connection along with great challenges of disconnection. How do we balance this vast accessibilty to knoweldge, information, and people around the globe with our ability to relate to the real people and places that exist in our everyday physical life? The inspiration for the painting screen sprang from a very historical, physical source, but has flowered into an exploration of a current and everyday experience-our relationship with our screens. The word screen holds multiple meanings and hits directly on a very real challenge of living in the year 2015 with 1 in every 5 humans on the planet owning a smartphone and able to connect across the globe.