Through My Mother's Lenses
Looking through my mother's lenses is not dissimilar from looking through my camera lenses. She sees compositional juxtaposition as any photographer does, she sees wide and telephoto dimension and range, she sees intimate space and sparse and spacial expanse. But there's something different than a camera lens can see. My sister Gretchen and I were contemplating this one day about what that is that's so compelling about these paintings, about Mom's vision. We agreed that it is something about her elimination of detail to the degree that what she sees is even more amplified by it's presence, starkly exposed for the essential elements of which it is composed. She sees through the riff raff to the essence of whatever it is that draws her vision onto the canvas. We muse at Terry Karson's comment after looking at allot of her paintings, that where ever he looks now when driving through any landscape, he sees another “Gennie” painting. “Everywhere you look there's another one!” Driving with Mom for so many years I heard this very comment from her many times, “Look! There's another one!”, always with a cigarette in hand, and although present with the conversation, her eyes were always engaged in the land, the trees, the sky, the light passing by.
Of course her interest was not always with the landscape. When we were kids, her studio was filled mostly with paintings about paint. We weren't that interested actually, it was just there and always changing. Big panels of masonite stacked in multitudes or single panels leaning against walls and on easels, waiting for more paint or waiting to dry. Her studio was where the oats for the horses were stored, where we hung up our jackets and kicked off our boots. The beer brewed beside the washing machine. The alchemical smell of turpentine and malt from bubbling beer was as perennial as the Cottonwood leaves that enveloped our seasons through those years when Mom and Dad were exploring subterranean worlds of abstract expression scrubbed and smeared onto canvasses, only peripheral to any spectrum of life with which we kids were engaged. Sometime we showed up in the paintings, sometimes we were asked to sit still to be drawn. When we weren't messing with horses or hooding around town on our bikes, we also filled up sketchbooks with drawings, mostly of horses and pretty girls... but the energy that was generated from their immersion into that mutable world compelled both of them for their lifetimes of wrangling paint and whatever other medium captivated them in the studios.
Daddy's studio was down town. For us kids, it was a place to visit on excursions to the ice cream store on our bikes, and for some years it became our ballet studio when we were exploring the “pretty girl” phase of our childhood. And it was always mythically amplified into a party palace in our minds...our rides home a bit wobbly at times in the wee hours after babysitting old family friends' kids. Our parents commiserated and communed with friends and colleagues to share whatever was new and exciting (it was all about quality in those days...) in their respective fields on campus. The studio was their meeting ground for keeping in touch, and the circle of friends that evolved through that decade bonded through life. Home brew was the flux, and the friendships endured through an emergence of culture that transformed the quiet little ag campus of MSC into a thriving and wildly creative community of artists and writers, musicians and actors...architects, philosophers, chemists, geneticists, educators and general revolutionary thinkers who challenged the state of the world and status quo of the times. The studio was the hub. Sometimes the parties happened at the house, or at their friends houses. Always students and friends stopped by, dropped in for a beer and a smoke, often stayed for a meal, to carry the threads of their personal explorations through conversation, confrontation with and evaluation from my folks. Little did they know that those little ones bopping around were paying attention, although peripherally at the time, their souls filling with the spark of passion that carried us each into resourceful lives of creative struggle and venture...
That the studio was central to their lives, I have no doubt that both by nature and by nurture, each of us assimilated the spirit of what compelled them to a life in the arts. We didn't necessarily watch them work, that happened mostly when we were in school or were otherwise occupied with our own childhood pastimes and passions. It was in retrospect as an adult that I became conscious of their dedication to their work. The fact that a family of 5 kids did not derail them from their studios is testimonial to the philosophy by which we were raised. As parents, they taught through example of holding to the values that sustained them as individuals and as artists. Their attention to our lives as children was never secondary, we were embraced in context of the processes of creative energies that inspired and perplexed them for their lifetimes. In love and in struggle, art and life were one and the same, art always derivative of life that was generated through their work and their family. That love and struggle extended deep into the community of friends, community and colleagues as a generation carried and passed the torch of a revolutionary wave of cultural values beyond the conventional social boundaries from which they had emerged.
It needs to be said about my mother...that even as a mother of five, the studio remained core to her departure from a cultural norm and generated a presence of vitality and buoyancy that defined her character and influence in the world of her contemporaries. Her vision was a driving force in the trajectory of both of their lives as educators and artists. Dad's influence manifest primarily through the university where Mom's manifest through the community...and the family has been derivative of all of that! The breadth of both our folks' influence has manifest in each of our lives through varied and various tendrils of inquiry into the questions and struggles of what it means to be human. Education, cultural and political awareness, philosophical and spiritual inquiry, exploration in the arts and environmental consciousness are all part of the struggle and the love of what it means to be alive. The studio remains manifest in various ways...both as physical space where works emerges from each of our lives as time allows, be it pots, music, wire sculpture, embroidered pillows, papier mache` “stick people”.... or cyberspace... where images of Bob and Gennie's work continue to inspire and influence through generations.
Tina DeWeese 2015