I have painted flowers for a long time. As a city girl I'd found flowers a way to reconnect to Nature missing in our cubicled, asphalt lives by exploring the familiar small scale blossoms any city dweller could place in their home. My paintings are not strictly "Botanicals", but more oversized Hollywood impressions, an attempt at a Proustian memory of the familiar, which, if successful, viscerally reconnects the viewer and asks them to look further.
This past Spring, at the prompting of my friend and patron, Robert Leleux, who had recently over turned his life and moved to New Orleans, I started a deep exploration into Magnolias.
My first memories of Magnolias are as a high school girl in Virginia visiting my grandparents in Georgetown. Enormous, dense, dark primordial entities, unfamiliar to me having lived in Paris, Princeton, The Adirondaks, Sun Valley, Cuernavaca, Mexico, Lake Forest and Chicago, places Magnolias didn't thrive, the trees drew me with their novelty and mystery.
Their leathery leaves were the deepest jungle green, nearly oily black, reversing to tones of sienna, mahogany, terra cotta. They had huge candles of pod like bulbs that opened into magnificent sculptural waxy blossoms of ivory white tinged with pink or apricot, fading to rusty peach. In the center of these spectacular flowers was a cone of seeds, a miniature ear of corn, all yellows that turned Christmas red in Winter, and a ruff of pollen laden anthers in deeper golds and reddish hues. These where the prototype Magnolia grandiflora. To me they were the South.
Now, having spent time immersing myself in them, I know there are many types of magnolias and that a great deal of hybridization has been done by plantsmen to make this lovey tree available to people in many climates. There are white, pink, yellow and magenta magnolias. Small tree and bush varieties. Some have small flowers that more resemble jasmines, but most have the familiar pod opening to a tulip shaped blossom. To me they are extraordinary.
I hope I have been able to evoke some of my youthful fascination with magnolias in this series. I saw so much in them: extra terrestrials glowing in the humid night; balletic blossoms pushing through the density of their surrounding leaves; Darwinian connotations; strength and fragility; eroticism; the unexpected colors of white; the evolving shades in different light; their purity; the whole life death cycle.
I am not done with magnolias yet. There are several whites, and a slew of yellows in the pipeline. I can't wait to post them and hear your reactions.