My Home Economics works of 1994-2006 are both sincerely and somewhat ironically responding to Ab Ex. They have been called by critics ironic because I think it necessary to discuss the lack of the visceral in today's fashionable art by incorporating both expressionism with the decorative, not forsaking authenticity though not allowing serious abstract painting to exist in its ivory tower. Though I'm not sure you'd approve this impulse to juxtapose my oils with stretched panels of fake fur, " vinyl like stuff", upholstery or painted artificial flowers. I'd like to give you some background as to my development so I'm excerpting some pages from a memoir I have been working on since 2003. I'm still working. I'm still working, although I am an under-known, still-emerging artist in the early years of old age. My hair is gray and my chin is no longer firm. I'm not yet a spirit or ghost though I sometimes feel like one. Childless, my art is my biology. Your gestures and marks are my biology. The biology of the 20thcentury. Your gestures, colors and marks are my favorite ancestors. They are my sisters of choice. My own body of painting is my nuclear family and my extended family, my cousins and aunts, my children and grandchildren. My early works are ancestors, my great aunt or great great grandmother. My layers of oil paint are visceral striations of geological time. And they are also human. They are thought made physical. Emotive and also palpitating.
,i>Even though I am an abstract painter, I think of my work as a visual diary. A diary of my unconscious. A diary of my responses. A diary of tangible form and color without words. I understand the meaning of a metaphor. I make meaning. My first works at Alfred were abstract symbols for organs floating on what I believed to be a metaphysical field. I thought of them as interior and exterior maps. I drew symbols for body parts and believed that my personal mark was crucial to inner awareness. Being an abstract painter was essential to me. I wanted to do nothing else but express my inner self. I believed that aesthetic soul was necessary. My late father, Paul Woodbury Weld, was an internist at the Rochester General Hospital and I had been exposed at meal times to daily conversations about health and disease. He was not interested in culture and did not attend church with the rest of the family. He had contracted polio the year I was born and was disabled so could not participate in sports with any of his six children. He did throw horse shoes and play croquet-his only sports except for hiking in the mountains. While my mother, Mary Jean Cameron Weld, painted she had first been trained as a nurse and was able to have an active voice while talking to my father about his work. Their serious attitudes about their personal interests revealed to me how to be serious and ambitious about my painting.
The painting process, even after forty-five years, is a daily discovery. Painting grows meaning, much like a gardener. I paint bones and skeletons, organs or turtles, cellular forms, pistols and stamens seeking to emote. I believe in a physical sensuality, a materiality of the object, and I see consciousness in imagery that you can touch and caress with your eyes. What made me believe in the power of the visual to speak profoundly? The ghosts of painting and sculpture, ancient Haniwa, or clay fragments of a food preparation bowl. How did you discover your imagery throughout your years of painting, Joan? "Just paint" your spirit screamed at me yesterday. Your spirit is right. I feel that because I am an unknown artist painting without regard for the coolness espoused now that I have freedom as you did. I too respond to an inner conviction. A solitary endeavor usually but for my ghosts. I find a profound spirituality in nature and yearn to interpret and suggest this Darwinian life force as you did so beautifully. I see and experience the biology of 20th century anguish daily. I doubt you saw your works as landscapes either. Art is my natural world. My own painting as well as yours. While I do not see glorious skies or beauteous forests daily, I do experience the abstract scapes and marks of our paintings. I feel their rich surfaces between my toes much like mud or sand. I walk through their imagery. I breathe in their colors. Visual art fills my lungs and my veins, pulsating through my system. I revel in painting. I believe an oil or acrylic surface to symbolize the life force that comprises our unique histories. I believe a painting's surface to be a film of consciousness. I think color is magnificent. "It can be ugly. It can be decorative and pretty. It can be shy. It can be bold." My colors are my words. Painting seriously and communing with tough art is as profound as a religious experience that for me cuts across denominations, races and maybe even nations. It is my escape from trivia. I believe serious art to be solely about the big issues.
I'll write again. I wanted to let you know my response to your retrospective at the Whitney. I went several times and loved the works. It was good for New York to see such passion. It was also good for New York to see nature- based work-New Yorkers have a hard time appreciating the transcendental sublime in Nature-concentrating much more on people--and I for one prefer impersonal Nature. Thank you, Joan, for your ambitious interpretation of it.