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Creating a Path to Humanity

August 27, 2020

Clyfford Still is one of my inspiration artists. Still is an American Abstract Expressionist and contemporary of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Although influential among contemporary artists during his time, Still is not well known to many of us because of the choices he made during his art career. Denver, Colorado is very fortunate to have the Clyfford Still Museum dedicated to his work. Still’s art, the architecture of the museum and his story are worth seeing.

At summer’s start the Art Base had a virtual showing of Lifeline: Clyfford Still, a film by Dennis Scholl about Still’s life. Learning about his experience and choices while revisiting his art captured my heart once again, and reminded me of the power in finding our way through art.

The roots of Expressionism started in Germany between 1919 and 1929, and was recognized in the United States in the post-World War II era of the 1940’s. While watching the film it struck me that those difficult years in world history are similar to the exceptionally tough times we’re currently experiencing. And, like a pressure valve, there must be a release. Expressionism exploded on the art scene as the world adjusted to the hardships and atrocities that had occurred. Artists had to find a way to make sense of it all and literal representation on the canvas, or even the blurred and muted colors of Impressionism, were no longer enough as the world became harder to manage and comprehend.

I like to imagine that some of the great artists from this period loosened the lines within their work so we the viewer, and perhaps they themselves, could find individual ways to make sense of life and the world. Leaving a portion of the canvas empty allowed breath, a pause, and hope. Perhaps for them a realistic interpretation of life and the use of painting to replicate life with precision no longer fit. Or maybe they didn’t want to fit into that world. These artists who colored ‘outside the lines’ did what made sense to them despite the classical constraints and expectations of art in popular society. The blurred edges, minimalistic lines and empty canvases that blossomed through Abstract Expressionist’s like Clyfford Still continue to allow each of us to find our interpretation and place in the chaos of life. In this way, art creates a path to our personal humanity.

For me, as the world clamps down its restraints, I find relief through my abstract photography and strive for less information in my images. In undefined space I can envision the reality I wish for humanity. And with this undefined space I can endeavor to create hope, possibility and room for each viewer to do the same. One of my first bold images in 2012 was titled Still Life and inspired by Clyfford Still’s work. 

(Left: Still Life by Look Studio2012 | Right: 1947-R-no.1 by Clyfford Still, courtesy of the Clyfford Still Museum)

And recently Still’s work has inspired two new images from Look Studio: 

(Left: Revelation by Look Studio2020 | Right: PH-489 by Clyfford Still, courtesy of the Clyfford Still Museum)

(Left: Silver Lining by Look Studio2020 | Right: PH-945 by Clyfford Still, courtesy of the Clyfford Still Museum)

Thanks to the master artists who forge outside the boundaries of the mainstream and keep us inspired. Art is a bridge that connects, heals and gives humanity an avenue of resilience and hope. And thank you to the Clyfford Still Museum for making his images available online.