Even The Ice Queen Weeps

Even The Ice Queen Weeps, Gouache and Acrylic Collage on Drawing Paper; 43" x 48"; 2008

I go to blue for a hard, frank look at things.

In the mid 1990's, living on my own in a 1500 square foot loft in Tacoma, I painted a blue self-portrait.

In 2008, in my large interior studio at 619 Western in Seattle, after years of working on my precise, squarescape city scenes, I was feeling my way into a new, freer vein of work. Even the Ice Queen Weeps was the third in a new series of large collage paintings.

At first I was interested only in black, but gradually I found my way back to color. Both sensual and sharp, blue was the natural choice.

The main working wall in my big interior studio at 619 was some kind of prehistoric sheetrock. It was almost impossible to pin into, so I held up the collage with bandaids of blue tape while I worked on it. 

I was also using the tape to stick pieces on to the collage before gluing them down. When I removed a piece of collage, I would absently stick the bit of blue tape to the wall, which started to look like an extension of the piece and probably influenced the way I installed a later collage (This Storied Heart), with collage scattering off the paper onto the gallery walls.

When I set out to make the first of these large collage paintings, my idea was to make grand versions of a series of tiny abstract pieces I had made over the previous year. Those little paintings were my first foray into combining washes and bits of cut paper, and into pure abstraction, and the idea of taking them to a larger scale was both thrilling and troublesome.

I knew that everything would change when I scaled up the studies unless I rigorously controlled the process, and even then, the large work would be its own beast, something entirely different from the small work.

What would physically happen when I moved from making tiny washes of aquarelle pencil on blank greeting cards to spreading lakes of acrylic on swags of paper from a giant roll?

One evening I took a deep breath, took scissors to the roll, and began to slosh pools of color over vast sections of paper. I was aiming for self-contained puddles in a pristine white field, over which I would then glue collage pieces. 

Then as was inevitable a spurt of blue paint escaped from my brush across the page, and everything changed.

It's surprising to me to identify that burst of paint as a defining moment in the next series of paintings. Yet looking back, that's the moment when I discovered the expressive potential of playing collage blocks against unfettered washes, in all their splattering unpredictability.