Joan Mitchell Center AIR Program

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Gwen Fabricant

New York, New York
1994 Painters & Sculptors Grant Recipient

Artist's Statement (2013)

My work begins with my astonishment at the beauty of natural fact.

I work from close observation of objects, in strong daylight, at their actual size. Each object enters the painting when I find it, often as a surprising emblem of raw nature discovered in the context of urban human life. At times I bring objects back to the studio from forays in woods or beach. The condition of the preservation, or of the fragile, changeable nature of the forms being painted, determines the pace of work on the painting. It is generally a slow process.

The compositional unity of these disparate forms takes place gradually, in the course of the painting. Grand forces of gravity, motion, gesture, color and light play out at my will on this intimate scale. An underlying theme of memory, and also an uncanny strangeness, become manifest. 

This rigorous process of finding, seeing and representing the reality of easily over-looked, often ephemeral forms, which exist outside of cultural context or psychological narratives, gives me freedom to express strong emotion.

Recently I have started to use a digital scanner as a tool to make images of natural forms – usually botanical – that I have collected. With a few very simple moves I can change the exposure, color, tone and contrast of the first version that the scanner photographs. I am excited by the expansion of the number and range of images, sometimes catching the fleeting stages in the life of a plant, that this process makes so quickly available to me. Choosing from these images, I have digital prints made of a number them on paper. I can then work on them from my direct observation of related or disparate forms, with drawing or painting materials. There is a play between the two kinds of “realism” -- that of the “hand-made” and the “mechanical”. It can be a kind of confrontation, of harmony or contrast. I have only begun to work this way, and hope to be able to explore the process much further at the Residency in New Orleans.

  • Solo with Squid, 2012, oil on linen, 26 x 24 inches.

  • Portrait of a Stick, 2012, oil on linen, 20 x 22 inches.

  • Broken Shield, 2009, oil on linen, 20 x 29 inches.

  • Zucchini Leaf & Birch Bark, 2011, laser print, gouache, graphite, colored pencil on paper, 14 x 11 inches.

  • Wing & Goldenrod, 2011, laser print, gouache on paper, 11 5/8 x 9 1/2 inches.

All works are copyright of the artist or artist’s estate.