ELENI SMOLEN
Statement

Like many others, I am deeply connected to, and concerned about, the natural world.  It has always been a source of inspiration. There is a visual energy which resonates on emotional and spiritual levels. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson has coined the word “biophilia” to describe his hypothesis that humankind’s affinity for the natural world is innately coded within our DNA. He calls it, “the refuge of the spirit, remote, static, richer even than human imagination.”

I found my calling in my forties – better late than never – when we moved to the Southern Tier in New York  to a very rural environment surrounded by dense woodlands, stone walls, overgrown apple trees and bears, deer and wild turkey outside our back door. After years of working in New York City at various non-profits, corporations, and health centers – the concrete jungle indeed – my dream became to move to the country. It was the solitude and quiet that allowed me to paint (see Biophilia) in a small upstairs bedroom of a little farmhouse situated at the top of a winding, s-curved, dead-end dirt road. I remember walking through the overgrown path of an abandoned apple orchard with my two Akitas and thinking that I could do this happily every day for the rest of my life. I had found my utopia.

Some twenty-three years later, my present-day Guardian Series, (not yet on the site) has its roots in personal history as it was inspired by the discovery of a photograph of me taken by my mother when we were in Étretat in 1959 (Girl by the Sea sketches). I was almost 7 years old in the picture, and had a duckling balanced on my folded arms, delightfully absorbed in the protective moment. I am squinting in the bright sunshine and from my smile and gaze, looking directly at my mother holding the camera. As the Series progresses, riffing on the same image, working in ink, oil and graphite, working blind or loosely expressive,  it becomes apparent that there is a “working through” of the pain of leaving an idyllic childhood, moving through an adulthood filled with the inevitable losses and regrets, and finally,  reflecting the current zeitgeist filled with uncertainty, disintegration, anxiety and crisis. The innocent, carefree young figures morph, over time, into increasingly defiant and determined individuals. Who knows? They may not save the world. But that won't stop them from trying.

June 2019




 
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