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HOME GROWN by Laura Hollick, View Magazine, February 1, 2007
All of us are influenced by our surroundings. Sometimes we resist the environment we find ourselves in and other times we revel in it, soaking up every aspect. Have you ever noticed when you return for a traveling adventure, your voice has a different fluctuation according to the accent of the place you were just in. You absorbed the environment so much it influenced you.
Every artist has to tackle the reality that their environment will influence what they create. Some artists deal with this by taking long trips away and finding studios in log cabins so they won't be distracted by anything of modern influence. Other artists take a realist perspective and invite their environment to dictate their inspiration.
Artist Diana Gordon, has chosen to do exactly that. She is a mother spending most of her time in the home with her children. Her home environment has become the source of inspiration and influence for her art.
In a current exhibition entitled Domestic Intimacy at Sunrise Gallery, Gordon is showing over 30 paintings of her experience of home life. "This exhibition is about my intimate, familiar, close up life," she explains. "It is an intense personal look at my children, our everyday settings and activities."
It was the death of Gordon’s father in 2005 that really pushed her to take her home life more seriously and preciously. She started to reminisce over old photographs of when her children were very young. Now they are pre-teens, and growing fast. “I sorted through and pulled out those images which held me transfixed in memory, my husband and I relive such moments every evening when the kids are asleep,” the artist tells.
Gordon describes two themes that are explored in her work, “the concept of intimacy, and the effect of a child’s unyielding gaze.” Each painting becomes a visual narrative for her life. It is like a modern photo album, where every image is able to capture the energetic mood that was experienced in that moment.
Using colours, brushstrokes and unique compositions Gordon is able to separate her art from typical scrapbook-style shots. She uses photographs as a reference point for her paintings, but the organization of each image is based on imagination, often incorporating multiple pieces in one piece.
When being a mom becomes your full-time job, the intricacies of your day unfold with patterns and spontaneity. Both these elements, pattern and spontaneity, are utilized in her pieces. There is an organized quality to Gordon’s work, coupled by a randomness that forms a balance.
When Gordon reflects on the joys of domestic life, she describes it as, “a deep understanding of each other’s moods, body language, facial expressions, knowing how they will react in situations and how to support them, a shared history of events, silly games and experiences.
“As a mother of two babies, then toddlers, now pre-teens my days have been full and fulfilled,” she says.
This exhibition reflects the vitality of home life, showing us the exuberance and sweetness of day to day living. Gordon’s art gives moms a solid position to experience a fulfilling and quality life. After seeing this exhibition you may find your self speaking with a mom accent.
May 8, 2007
Pictures of children at play have always been comforting. But painting them can be a struggle, especially when the artist is a mother.
Diana Gordon is a Hamilton artist who has been exhibiting her work for about 10 years. She is also the mother of Emily, 12, and Connor, 11.
A few years ago she painted Going In, a striking oil of Emily. This piece combines two traditionally soothing images -- a childhood scene and a seaside scene.
An auburn-haired girl dominates the composition. The rich red of her bathing suit stands out sharply against the background of sand and water. Gordon adds dabs of green, blue and red to the golden sand and builds up the water with horizontal strokes of blues and greens.
A white-handled blue pail lying on the sand provides another burst of strong colour. The girl, her back to us, is playing and runs toward the bucket. Gordon is using two strong colours, red and blue, to move the narrative along.
Gordon taps into a long tradition with her subject. Images of children were the kind of domestic scenes expected of women artists for more than 1,500 years. But it was only from around 1800 that paintings about children being children really took off. That's because childhood began to be perceived as an important part of one's life. Up until then, children were merely incomplete adults.
Visually comforting scenes like this make us assume they are easy to paint. But Gordon admits that the subject of capturing childhood on canvas can be a struggle -- not a physical one with the brush and paint, but an emotional one.
The idea for the painting came about during a day at the beach. Gordon took some photographs of Emily running in the sand. Emily was 5 1/2 at the time.
"I had intended to paint them soon after," Gordon says, "but life intervened."
Gordon did not paint the scene until her daughter was eight. Trying to capture a moment almost lost in time proved difficult.
"Try as I might, I was unable to make my daughter five years old any more," she recalls. "The image instead is of an eight-year-old, rapidly growing girl, making the transition from childhood to adolescent. It is only the pail on the sand that clearly makes her a child."
Unable to capture the younger child, she compromised. She painted her daughter with "the awkward hands and hunched, apprehensive shoulders" of a child, she says, then added the "curving waist and hips" of an adolescent.
And so Gordon's uncomplicated narrative of a child running toward a pail can be taken to a second level of meaning: the daughter moving away from the mother who cannot keep her a child forever.
Gordon also painted a similar image of Connor at the beach in Look At That! But she found it easier to depict him as a small child. "As a mom, I perhaps want to keep him little, a while longer."
Gordon is one of a group of artists who show regularly at the Sunrise Gallery, 765 Beach Blvd. This month's exhibition, Painted Tales, showcases the work of Doug Cockell, Deann Ford, Natalie Gerasimchuk and Gillian Song. Phone 905-549-5888.