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Paintings: Marilene Phipps

Artist Statement

Artist Vitae
Artist Statement
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I come with a certain bias against the narrative in a painting and in favor of the view that the action is across its surface. The old devices for deep space are eliminated and with them the traditional "center of interest."

However, it does not accord with my nature or with my aesthetic taste to be wholly satisfied with pure abstraction. Painting is an act of self-expression but also of communication. I invite viewers into a dialogue by conveying an idea in visual terms, by asking a question, by challenging their thoughts or their emotions. In order to do this, I need images that have recognizable relevance to the physical world.

I was born and brought up in Haiti. My imagery draws on the powerful early sensations and visual excitement of childhood, from the rituals and myths of people magically connected to their surroundings.

To reflect these different strains, I offer the possibility that my paintings be enjoyed on either one or all of three levels: First, the paintings must be experienced as sensuous, textured, abstract color studies. I like to "push" the color and see how it affects light and mood. I pay special attention to texture, width, rhythm, and energy of brush strokes. Second, I raise issues of psychological consequence. To do this, I manipulate various elements of physical life in terms of their metaphorical meaning. The theme of exile is a constant undercurrent in my work--an emotional exile--from oneself or from the outside world. Other favorite themes relate to birth, growth, spiritual cleansing, inner light and passage. I am fascinated by the link that exists between paradoxical themes, such as those of death and birth, love and death (the meaning of sacrifice), separation and coming together. My metaphorical vocabulary includes animals, graveyards, crosses, houses, doors, windows, chairs, waterfalls, shadows, and reflections. Third, I offer in my paintings the Haitian myths and the Vodou religion. Every spirit ("Loa") belongs to a particular group called up through specific rituals in pre-determined, specific places of worship. Every spirit has its distinct personality and function, among them are healers, diviners, warriors, planters, lovers, nurturers and tricksters. Every spirit has its totemic animal, tree or physical milieu, its preferred colors, smells, foods or drinks. This is a world of symbols. In a bull, the Haitian will see Ogou, the warrior; in a goat, he sees Guede, diviner and spirit of death; in a river, he sees the place where Simbi, the healer, lives.

Ultimately, what I have written means only that these are the impulses which stir my willingness to lead the basically reclusive life of a painter. I have described what I bring to the work in order to create it, but it is what you, the viewer, bring to my work that makes it live.

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