Artist Marilee Childs evokes the profound spirit of nature through her colorful still-life paintings.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Marilee Childs paints lush watercolor and acrylic botanical still lifes populated with birds, butterflies and bouquets that are vividly and completely alive. They channel not just the physicality of nature, but the spirit, too; moths and butterflies captured in patient brushstrokes, curvy and sensual flowers, connected by geometric shapes and lines like spider webs.
“It’s very compelling when you’re looking at one of these creatures,” she says. “The complexity is so attractive, the way the moth or butterfly is made.”
She was, in her words, “ignited” to do art at age three, coloring with Crayola crayons. Her grandmother tended a garden in their native Ohio home with Childs, and enrolled her in cultural programs for kids in Cleveland. She was absorbing two key ingredients that would stay with her: nature and art.
She focused on the human figure in art schools, but when she came to California about 35 years ago, she fell in love with the natural landscape.
“The wildlife here is profound,” she says. “At Elkhorn Slough, you see these egrets – it’s just stunning. California is incredibly lavish [with] flowers. Over millions of years, these creatures have mutated powers of attraction.”
The theory of evolution, quantum physics, mythology, geometry and spirituality are all embedded in her dense paintings. She makes connections between the “beauty” and “music” of mathematical equations and the geometry and emotional properties of flowers.
“Flowers, on some level, are an origination. When we bring flowers or plants into our home, we relate to them, consciously or not. It’s all about making seeds. It’s sexual. The beauty is to attract and cooperate with pollinators.”
Childs has kept a studio at the Pacific Grove Art Center for 10 years because it has a skylight, and waits tables at Il Fornaio at night so that she can paint in the light of day, so she has ideas about the ideal home for her artwork.
“Someplace where there’s [natural] light,” she says, “because that’s the way they’re painted. [A place] where people gather, are working on consciousness. It surrounds them and lifts their spirits.”
The creatures in her paintings may be native to exotic places, but she finds her floral subjects – orchids, foxglove, wild strawberry, tulips – in the hills of Big Sur, local florists like Swenson & Silacci, or while driving and walking: “Each person’s expression of what they plant in their yard is so individual.” She’ll knock on doors and ask to take flowers to her studio to paint before the blooms fade.
“The first day you have to get the gesture, the weight, what it’s trying to say,” she says. “Every flower is an evolutionary drama. In the laments of the world, these are the courageous survivors – the colors, the shape, the way they attract. It’s raw power. It shows itself. It has to open to the world.”
MARILEE CHILDS’ art can be found at www.marileechilds.com; Sotheby’s, Ocean Avenue and Dolores, Carmel, 214-2545; Ixchel Ecoluxe, 171 Crossroads Shopping Center, Carmel, 626-1014; and Pacific Grove Art Center, 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove, 375-2208.