I’m not exactly sure when I decided to be an abstract painter. There was a transition in art school that developed organically from working with the human figure; I began pushing the boundaries of that form and then moved past the figure to abstraction. I wasn’t really a choice per se, but more of a comfortable fit—a coming home perhaps. When I examine my early influences in Northern New Mexico, I can more clearly trace that move to abstraction: as a child I was surrounded by the weavings and beadwork of my parents, as well as the Native American artwork and the dominant aesthetic of Santa Fe rooted in Spanish and Native symbology, art and craft.
With that move to abstraction, however, I did make a choice in audience; by proceeding in a direction that was more focused on pattern, color and reference, a certain section of the population was immediately cut off from my work. It’s arguable that to be open to abstraction a person needs experience with it—whether that comes from looking at art, going to school, having a parent or peer who makes abstracted work or having that boundary from “real life” pushed or questioned. It’s not the easiest thing to embrace or understand without some context or exposure, and abstract art can be intimidating. Which brings me to politics and the environment:
In this most recent presidential election cycle–from the primaries through today’s evolving dramas—it has never been more evident that the people who make up our population are divided and under-exposed to each other; I’m no exception. As hard as it can be to understand abstracted artwork, it’s significantly more challenging to look at life through another person’s perspective and to have some idea of where they’ve been, what they’ve gone through, and who they “are”. Social and traditional media have combined to create an intensely polarized version of Americans as people and our values are as a nation. I don’t blindly accept that version, but instead recognize that there is a growing lack of context and exposure.
Additionally, environmental awareness must be pushed to the forefront—we need to be talking about it, valuing it. This project incorporates an underlying and unifying focus on environment, as climate change is verified and real, and our landscape is changing rapidly. Holding onto nostalgic ideas of the past or viewing the world through screens is creating a damaging separation between humans and our environment.
Borrowed Landscapes is a series of works that use our most common point of reference to explore shifts of perspective and communication. The series is metaphorical and intentionally straightforward, and is beginning with three parts:
- Part one: beginning January 20, 2017 I began the daily practice of collaging and painting over vintage postcards of national landmarks, landscapes and cityscapes; for color postcards I am imposing a grid and painting a screen of individual dots in black, white and grays. For black and white cards I’m using colored paint. My goal is to produce 100 postcards by April 29, 2017.
- Part two: I am seeking out found landscape artworks—photographs, books, prints, original paintings and imagery—and am imposing the same collage and painted grid; I am planning to travel to rural areas and “red states” specifically to find materials in thrift and antique stores. My first trip starts at the end of March 2017 and I’ll spend two weeks driving and camping through southern New Mexico and Texas.
- Part three: I am currently in talks with other visual artists who use landscape as the primary subject of their work; I am proposing they allow me to use their original artwork as the source material over which I’ll paint. I will also be remaking select works with the permission of the original artist to explore perspective.
I developed Borrowed Landscapes with a sense of urgency, and beyond altering existing postcards and photographs my long-term plan is to incorporate regular travel to introduce ideas and invite experiences with people outside my daily experience. My true and heartfelt goal is to connect with others through my artwork, and to share not only the ideas and values I stand with, but also the way I choose to treat those around me in practice: with dignity, curiosity and kindness. It’s time for a new perspective.
Nina Tichava, March 2017