January 2017 Art Exhibit – Mary Black and Millicent Tomkins
As a painter, my concerns have always been directed towards process, surface and materials. In 1999 I began using encaustic paint exclusively. As this material is comprised of wax, pigment and damar resin, it must be heated and fused. Using hot wax, which is difficult to control, challenges me in the creation of a wide spectrum of surfaces from flat and transparent to dense and scarred. There is a very destructive aspect to my work, as it is only through the process of destruction and creation that I am able to build the layered, raw surfaces I am so attracted to. Often times as an artist, I need to turn to nature for impetus in my work. During one of those challenging times, two extraordinary birds nests fell from an oak tree near my studio and were suspended together by a blue nylon thread. I found myself particularly drawn to the knot in one of them, the variety of materials they used and also the notion the objects being suspended. In my usual fashion, I abstracted the idea of the nests and let the materials and the process take over, using my own materials such as twine, sheetrock tape and graphite to build my “nests”, etc. It is my intention to trust my body’s response to the work and let the materials dictate the direction of each painting. Never an easy task. It’s about creating chaos, organizing chaos, giving into unplanned responses and letting go of intentions. This is my dance.
I have painted since I was nine years old when I copied a book cover of “Heidi” which won the first of six successive children’s art scholarships to the San Francisco Museum of Art (now the Art Institute). At the same time I was trained as a pianist and soprano. I earned a Masters of Art Degree at U.C. Berkeley.
Having explored various series of paintings over the years, I presently work in a Magic Realist style. I take photographs from nature and often use photographic techniques for highly detailed under-painting and superimpose oil paint. My work is in ink and oil on wood panels, or canvas for the larger motifs.
I do faux surfaces such as marble, walnut, burled wood and crackalure. I sometimes include “Visual Quotations” from the Great Masters or “Literary Quotations” (in borders inspired by Edward Hicks, 18c Amer.). I have quoted from the poetry in my former vocal repertoire, as well as historic and modern poets.I have studios in Mill Valley, California and Moab, Utah, where my family produces the Moab Music Festival each year.