Old unfinished wedding gift---New Brilliant Future.. / by Kerri McGill


Artists run into a specific problem when it comes to artwork as a gift.  The magic combination of inspiration, emotional content and studio time don't always come together to produce a piece of art for your loved one by the appropriate gift deadline.

The unfinished painting I write about is a wedding gift for a best friend. He and his wife travel for work and adventure.  He is a water engineer that also works on solar power projects.  She is a pediatric opthalmologist who sets up programs in less fortunate countries. To celebrate their new life together I make a dreamscape of their South American adventure.  It maps out their future journey with elements of challenge and reward, with the couple at the beginning to their most amazing adventure to date.

They were married three and a half years ago.  That's when I started the piece.... in a year that held little work and much time for painting.  But then I got a job, my roof fell in, I moved out and my would-be boyfriend got deported.  The years that follow were full of work and the gift remained unfinished.  With all the work, I had little time in the studio.  I didn't have the confidence to work on a piece that meant so much. 

This year I am an artist in residence program in Buenos Aires.  It started as a dream vacation to meet up with my deported friend and turned into a spot in LPAP as a visiting artist.  I have a lot of planning to do. I've never traveled this far for this long.  I've never been away from work for this long.  I have no idea what I promised them or what my project will be.  My dreams are coming true, but I'm in a dead panic!

Work is non-stop now, and I try to fit open studios in too.  I flip through old canvases in a dash to organize.  The unfinished canvas from three years ago grabs me.  How funny, trying to paint South America all those years ago, and now I'm going there myself!

I work on it a bit.  It remains unfinished for the open studios, but I show it anyway.  As I think about the coincidence, a project begins to grow. This is the image that will lead me into the residency... 

The image has many layers...different elements of relationships and life.  The couple is at the edge of a deep forest.  A field of flowers surrounds the perimeter.  They are tall.  A path cannot be made without crushing a few of the lovely flowers.  The thick and winding forest leads in different directions..in the distance hills red barren and mountains steep and far.. Some of the mountains are a solid blue, others fade in a mist.  On the hills are the blue horses of Blaue Reiter painter, Franz Marc, which represent harmony and spirituality...a higher existence. Where the fields are earthy gold, the sky is yellow, the color of hope.  There are two bodies of water. The first is dark and stormy the second calm reflecting the bright sky. 

This is the image that will hold an even more robust concept, that of fantasy vs reality.  I pull out a stash of muslin and stretch it 8'x10' and begin the painting that will travel to the other side of the world with me...