Nature's flow inspires my art: the currents in the coral reefs where I dive, the sands of the Outer Cape where I've spent 40 summers, the breezes of Jamaica Pond where I walk most days, the seasonal changes at the Arnold Arboretum. As a student and practitioner of qi gong, the traditional Taoist movement practice to enhance the flow of energy (qi), I work toward infusing qi into my artistic practice and work.
My interest in flow first evolved as I sought to share the spectacular beauty of the deep sea that I have explored as a SCUBA diver. Inspired by the otherworldly textures and forms of the the coral reef, I have experimented with a variety of techniques and media. Robert Motherwell said that the truest way to imitate nature is to employ nature's processes. Toward that end, I have spent the last five years working on surface that allows my water-based paints and inks to flow with maximum fluidity. I found that the silky, water-resistant surface of polypropylene paper (Yupo) produces textures and spontaneous effects that suggest the currents and magical light of the ocean floor. I exhibited 20 of these paintings in a two-woman show at the Copley Society of Art in 2015.
From these underwater landscape paintings on Yupo, I developed a technique to create watercolor monotypes. I discovered that that running dried watercolor paintings on Yupo through an etching press created wonderfully velvety textures, in contrast to the sharper imagery of the paintings. This body of work, underwater landscapes in paintings and monotypes, conveys my joy in the colors and the peace of the deep that I experience 100 feet below. 40% of our planet's precious coral reefs are now damaged. As an environmental artist, I celebrate the beauty of what remains in our waters while hinting at their fragile future.
The development of my underwater landscape series over a number of years has evolved from the descriptive to the evocative. As I have expanded my approach, I have also expanded the range of my imagery, inspired by the geological flows of the shore. Working en pleine aire in New England has generated an arboretum series that continues to grow.
Water in all its forms continues to be my principal muse, and the flows of air and mist has engaged me most recently. As I continued to experiment with the properties of Yupo, mystical mountains began to emerge. As fate would have it, I was invited to participate in a residency near Yellow Mountain in China, the iconic landscape seen in so much of traditional Chinese painting. There, I produced more than 50 paintings and monotypes. The series MADE IN CHINA, reflects that experience, and the mysterious energies of qi in mountains that I saw appear and disappear into the mist.
Parallel to these lyrical paintings and monotypes has been the development of a more conceptual body of work. A lifelong political activist, I have incorporated my artistic response to events of our time into my work, beginning with the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. My Deepwater Horizon series, exhibited at the Massachusetts Public Health Commission in the Massachusetts Statehouse, interprets the horrors of that event. Another series with political content followed the 2016 presidential election, when I found that all color had fled from my palette. What emerged in my studio were haunted, inky, apocalyptic images. The largest piece, a self-portrait, was included in a juried show at the Bromfield Gallery in 2017. In 2018, I made a pilgrimmage to Mexico City to study and draw inspiration from the masters of integrating politics and fine art. My current exhibition at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University is titled "OVER TIME: Through Art, the Impact of Change in the Arboretum Landscape," reflects my environmental concerns, and evolved from conversations with scientists there who study the impact of climate change on plant growth.
- Ginny Zanger