The new paintings in FOREIGN AND FAMILIAR PLACES are inspired by imagery I've collected from places around the world: the farm where I grew up and where I live and work today, and the places I've visited with my husband Kos, who figures prominently in my work. One of those places is Syria, where Kos and I visited our son-in-law’s family in 2009. It was a country of stark beauty with a rich and ancient culture. This culture came alive for us in the calls to prayer across Damascus, in the ancient souks, in the Bedouin camps and herds of camels moving through the desert along the road to Palmyra (Tadmoor to Syrians) and in the magnificent ruins of that ancient city. Kos and I wandered among those ruins early one morning, and I took many photos. Now that ISIS has arrived there to systematically destroy the ancient culture and terrorize the citizens of that venerated UNESCO World Heritage site, I cherish those photos in a way I never could have imagined. Two of the cityscapes in this exhibit are of Palmyra.
LA is a striking sunlit city with a Mediterranean climate that feeds an abundance of colorful flora. Crisscrossing the rank profusion of nature and the unbridled sprawl of the city is a huge and intricate web of freeways, where heavy traffic clogs the roadways and fouls the air. It is a cityscape that both intrigues and repels me, and one that I find oddly inspiring.
There’s a small Italian town on a large volcanic lake that has also inspired work for this show. Another Mediterranean climate in a much simpler city, one rich in the culture of the stoop, where residents of the little walk street below our apartment gather nightly to chat on the bench outside. It is a place where the old traditions of community thrive, a place to paint in bold and celebratory colors. Suwon, South Korea, is a large sprawling city where our granddaughter taught English to Korean children last year. A city of voracious consumption and rampant development, it is the headquarters of Samsung. Our time there was strange. Almost no one spoke English, and finding food we liked was difficult, but we discovered places of extraordinary beauty: an 18th century fortress encircled by walls overlooking the city, a meditation garden surrounded by endless high rises, and wonderful pulsing neon at night. I loved the glowing colors of the bright lights and the Korean lettering everywhere. THE GIRL IN SUWON CITY and SUWON BY NIGHT were inspired by that visit.
There are two paintings inspired by the farm where I grew up and where Kos and I have lived for the past 25 years: ON THE HILL, which was a gift to my mother on her 95th birthday and depicts her home and garden, and THE RED BIRD, where she is walking with her friend Maxine toward our house. My father is walking down the path. This is a painting of memory and of love. My mother died August 3, 2014, and this exhibit is dedicated to her.