Light and Darkness
Yoga is an inspiration and the subject of PG artist’s show.
Thursday, February 2, 2006
Gothic art goddess Jennifer Sullivan’s feeling the love these days, and her new paintings reflect a newfound tranquility. Featuring brighter colors, beatific smiles, calm expanses of blue sky, and a serene stillness, Sullivan’s two new series of work ooze good things.
Her Yoga Show, hanging now at the Pacific Grove Coffee House, is a study of the visual beauty of Ashtanga yoga. The other show, Paintings from the Imagination, opens at Cafe Noir in downtown Monterey this week, and explores the discipline’s positive influence on Sullivan’s own interior world.
“I’ve always wanted to learn yoga,” Sullivan says. “I guess I’ve been looking for a healthier lifestyle for a while now.”
So when she popped into Elizabeth McCloud’s Ashtanga yoga class at Chautauqua Hall, Sullivan asked if she could trade a portrait of the yoga teacher for a year’s worth of classes. After a look at Sullivan’s Web site, McCloud agreed.
While McCloud practiced yoga, Sullivan shot four rolls of film in the hopes of finding an image inspiring enough to paint. But when she developed the film, she decided to make a whole show’s worth of paintings.
“She is just this amazing, playfully-spirited woman,” Sullivan says. “When I saw her muscles and poise, I knew I wanted to do a whole show.”
The results of Sullivan’s newfound love capture the serene bearing and pixieish twinkle of McCloud, who has been studying the discipline since 1999.
As Sullivan delved into her own yoga, she found her work changing. The artist, whose previous work was dark and cartoonish, found herself lightening up.
“My style is getting more precise and more positive, for sure,” Sullivan says. “Yoga is doing that to me.”
In conjunction with her yogic portraits, Sullivan began relinquishing the reins of her imagination and working directly from her interior world. The imaginative landscapes which result are soothing blends of solid color and flowery garnish. “They’re pretty realistic but they’re from my mind instead of a photograph,” she says.
She also attributes her change in perspective to her surroundings. Living in the upper apartment of a building just a block and a half from Lovers Point in Pacific Grove, the painter has found a quiet spot to focus on creating three or more paintings a week. She’s been on the Peninsula for five years now.
“Most of the darker work came out of living in Dallas,” Sullivan says with a wry smile. “My work is very reflective of where I’m living and what I’m doing.”
Nevertheless, Sullivan is by no means done with her darker side. She continues to create and market her popular characters “Feisty Girl,” “Absinthe Man,” “Holy Man” and “Laughing Lady.”
“I think those characters are four facets of who I was at the time,” she says.
She sells T-shirts, greeting cards, and posters of the characters from her Web site and recently had to reprint her “Feisty Girl” card series due to demand.
Sullivan is also working on creating a cartoon out of “Feisty Girl” with help from local cartoonist David Schwartz.
Yet perhaps Sullivan’s most remarkable side project is her “live art” performances. Using music, large canvasses, and long brushes mounted on bamboo poles, Sullivan dances and paints in front of crowds for hours at local events like the Sand City West End Celebration and the Monterey Rock and Art Festival. She says these performances represent the early stages of a much grander vision she calls “The Big Picture.”
“I want to do something in an auditorium with music, lights, costumes, movement—and, of course, the painting,” Sullivan says. “The point is to bring the audience into the process like theater and even relay some kind of basic plot.”
As an example, Sullivan describes a cocoon on stage, around which she moves and creates a painting with the long brushes. At the end of the choreographed performance, the canvas would be brought vertical with a pulley to convey a painting of a butterfly.
“The painting would somehow finish off the story,” Sullivan says.
Jennifer Sullivan’s Painting from the Imagination opens 7pm Friday at Cafe Noir, 365 Calle Principal (inside Osio Theatre), Monterey. 649-6647. Sullivan’s Yoga Art shows at the Pacific Grove Coffee House through February, 510 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. Free. 655-5633.