Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Hadley Rampton at Phillips Gallery
by Curt Hawkins
Fresh from a morning of making turns in the fresh snow of the Wasatch Mountains, Hadley Rampton sits among her oil paintings and watercolor and ink drawings on display at Salt Lake's Phillips Gallery. "I usually try to paint every morning, five days a week. But today, fresh powder. I had to treat myself." My count is that she has already sold 5 of her wonderfully executed watercolor and ink drawings, created during her visit to Spain this summer. And the remaining pieces are stunning. More than a few of her oil paintings are also marked with sold tags.
Rampton began drawing as a child while reading the textbooks of her mother, who was earning a degree in Art History. She says she was perhaps a little bit different than her friends sometimes reading and drinking-in the wonderful color plates of her mothers textbooks. Ballet was her thing until she was 13 years old, when the time came to fully commit to the stringent regime of an acolyte ballerina. "I was too active out of doors to commit to such a thing." She played tennis, swam competitively, ran track and grew to love the outdoors and her beloved Wasatch Mountains. Math and science also drew her away to sit for hours with the books of Leonardo, Einstein and other great creative minds. She also sketched the whole time: "It found me. Art I mean. There was no other way."
Through out high school and college Rampton became too much of a formalist for her liking. She also committed "too many years to the study of architecture. It stifled me but forced me to render near perfect lines. It can also make one aware of perspective."
"Architecture, at first was my grasping for stability. Then I was drawn outdoors. The study of the Renaissance gave a formality and structure . . . I had graduated [in 1999]; attended Dave Dornan's workshop in Helper. I was basically a figure painter then it happened outdoors. I was in Italy, Florence. It came to me: you are going to be an artist. Then I started wandering. I wanted it all, to paint the streets, the canals. And once I was outside I never wanted to go back in. And landscapes became my passion . . . And I will stay outside. It is my total energy source."
Rampton's current exhibition seems of two parts. One is her landscapes of several subjects: aspen trees, and a variety of alpine and pastoral settings. She jokes that her friend, prominent artist, Connie Borup, gave her an "aspen addiction."
Much more than "aspen addiction" is displayed in all of her paintings of glorious landscapes. She masterfully paints a pair of aspens against clear blue sky.|0| It is her use of exotropic shadow that gives the trees their lovely perspective. It is interpretive using a very difficult process of white pigment gently shaded with grays, a hint of magenta and coal black. It might look simple and easy. But it is a difficult process masterfully applied. There are wisps of dead feathery branches. Sparse leaves cluster in some areas. Other leaves of many different hues stand alone, others dot small wisps of branches, proportioned in quick, single-stroke-gestures, if you will. It is perfect, "energy in repose."
There is tone and texture in the under-painted sky; it is an understated light source that authenticates the illusion. Rampton's brush becomes the mediator between the subject scene-color and texture- the very essence of the aspen trees that she obviously loves. Susan Swartz, Scott Christianson, David W. Jackson and others, ad nauseum, have painted and drawn aspen trees. But here is the difference: One knows, a priori, that Hadley Rampton has skied, hiked, painted and worshipped among these aspen trees. |1-3| It is an artistic engagement that is palpable.
Rampton's ink and watercolor scenes in Spain and Italy are a remarkable counterpoint to her landscapes. "I love Europe. I ride the train, always with my sketch pad, pen and watercolors. Sometimes I get lost. And you know they can be the best times. I paint my way out. Somehow arriving back at my hotel with more than a few sketches. It was in Italy, I became tired of my formal, rather studious adherence to perfect proportion, perspective and tight structure. My wandering in the villages, sitting in the cafes I decided that I needed to be looser. Less formal. To gesture, rather than proscribe the perfect image."
Gesture. Flow. Gauguin made the statement: “Nature’s appearance shows us…there are noble lines, false lines…a straight line suggests infinity, a curved line limits creation…Colours explain still more to me. Some tones are noble, some vulgar- some harmonies suggest tranquility, some excite you into doing something bold.”
Rampton's years studying architecture were not wasted. Each alleyway, each street scene -- particularly, "Interior Charles V. Alhambra" |4| -- is what one might call formalist while maintaining the gesture. Her shadowing and diaphanous washes seem free of obligation to the interior architecture. One might guess wrongly, that the washes utilize gouache, not watercolor. Rampton says, "We have to care furiously about every painting that we do." It is obvious that she does, melding creative practice and technical application. Her style is clean, sustained without being repetitive. One is struck with the fact that Hadley Rampton is only 31 years old. What wonderful surprises will she share with her admirers in the coming years? If it does take 10,000 hours of painting to become a master, according to Malcolm Gladwell, Rampton probably is only a few hours away.
Exhibition Spotlight: Salt Lake City
Creating a Legacy
Sue Martin's Creative Caregiving
In March of 2007, local artist Sue Martin went to Georgia to care for her mother, who was dying of cancer, and her father, who is afflicted with Parkinson's and dementia. During the six months she spent caring for her parents she kept a blog about her experiment in "creative caregiving." She also worked on a series of paintings about the experience, and these works, along with excerpts from the blog are currently on exhibit at the Sorenson Unity Center
through March 31 in an exhibit entitled Legacy
15 Bytes: Why did you decide to keep the blog?
Sue Martin: One of my biggest fears about leaving home for months to care for my parents was that I would become stressed and unhealthy, both emotionally and physically. I believe living creatively is the antidote to such unhealthiness, so I committed to performing my caregiving duties with as much creative thinking as possible. I started the blog before I left home as a way to examine my feelings and reflect on my experiences, and to allow friends and family to accompany me on my journey
15 Bytes: How did keeping the blog affect your time with your parents?
Sue Martin: Writing the blog, which took about 20-30 minutes a day, was a brief respite from caregiving. Sometimes I wrote early in the morning before my Dad got up; sometimes I wrote in the middle of the night when my mind was racing and I couldn't sleep. I found that by articulating my feelings, I was experiencing life - the joys as well as frustrations - more fully. I always tried to find humor in even the saddest or most frustrating times.
15 Bytes: At what point did you decide to start painting about the experience?
Sue Martin: It was not until after Momma passed away that I found time to get out the paints. At that point, my Dad needed a rest from all the running around we had been doing, so while he was napping, or while we were both sitting on the sun porch watching for ducks on the pond, I would paint.
15 Bytes: What did you hope to accomplish at the beginning of that process? And what was the actual result in the end?
Sue Martin: I wanted to capture the stories that friends and family told about Mom - how she got her nickname, Curly; |1| how she loved to garden; her love of dancing; |0| her dedication to caring for Dad. Since I didn't have a lot of space to work, I started with postcard-size paintings, layering watercolors in abstract patterns, then "finding" the subject with watercolor crayon and gouache. After I came home, I continued the series in larger formats, using acrylic and collage.
15 Bytes: Do you approach your art differently after this project?
Sue Martin: I enjoy mixed media, working expressively, layering colors and texture, and then finding the subject that wants to emerge. Most of the paintings in the series are consistent in that approach. The figures are mostly iconic rather than representations of my parents. But I don't work that way exclusively; I enjoy more traditional landscapes and portraits, too.
One of the stylistic exceptions in the series is a picture of my father sitting beside my mother's bed shortly before she died.|2| It was a very difficult painting to do, but it was therapeutic. Unlike the other paintings that are happy stories about Momma, this one is the story of a husband of 61 years who, even with his dementia, did not want to leave his wife's side.
15 Bytes: You've now hung the show and what started out as a personal project has turned into something public. How have you felt about this new stage of the project?
Sue Martin: What surprised me after I started the series, which were personal stories and memories of my mother, was how viewers responded to them. So many people are either dealing with eldercare issues or grieving a loss, and my stories reminded them of their stories. Last weekend I attended the memorial service of a friend's husband. Every speaker shared stories of Tom, how their lives were changed by their relationship with him. And nearly everyone used the word "legacy" to connote the lasting value of his life each time they will continue to recall those stories.
Each of us creates our legacy in every relationship. Though we can't totally control what others will remember most about us, we can certainly take responsibility for the way we treat others. "What are the stories you 'think' your friends and family will tell about you when you're gone?" is a question I want viewers to ask themselves. We're going to experiment with an opportunity for visitors to share some of those stories.
Sharing that last six months of my mother's life and caring for my father at that fragile time in his life was a great joy and an honor even with all its challenges. Even now, as my 86-year-old father is unable to tell me the day of the week, the month, the year, or where he lives, he still has something to teach me about living and aging with dignity.
is at the Sorenson Unity Center
through March 31. In conjunction with the exhibit, in late march the Unity Center will be holding a public forum on caregiving.