Stepping Back to Abstraction

In my previous life as a technical editor, my job was to make writing as clear and direct as possible. I loved removing anything that wasn’t necessary, leaving just concise paragraphs. Now, as an artist, clarity often means a strong alignment with reality. But now, representation feels too real, so I’m removing that too, with this latest series, trying to make my point with just placement of color and value. Introducing my new abstract series, Future Wanderings.

tiny fragments of levitation: Digital collage, 10 layers © 2021 Liz Ruest
tiny fragments of levitation: Digital collage, 10 layers © 2021 Liz Ruest

This art, without obvious photographic elements, feels even more like me — how does that work? At heart, I love a concept — one that leaves itself open to interpretation by others. What’s your idea when looking at these? What was mine? Does it matter?

I’ll tell you this much: what these images are not. They are not certain, and they are certainly not landscapes. While I’m intentionally leaving some clues about landscape in the work, they are just guides. Through value and color: of horizons and places; of navigating them; I’m drawing the lines that show thoughts being processed, looking for a path through the piece. There are interactions and conversations between the layers and sections, a series of decisions and choices, the sum of which records and symbolizes our vibrant record of life.

I am glad, in retrospect, for several sources of inspiration here. First, not knowing what was coming, I dove into Melinda Tidwell’s abstract composition class in February 2020, exploring structures. Then, the gift of time and courage that was our pandemic year let me play with the ideas for months afterwards in my sketchbooks. Later in 2020, as I was reading Rebecca Solnit’s fabulous “Field Guide to Getting Lost” I knew that it would influence this series, well before I was done. I saved phrases and snippets as options for later titles, and as I paired them with the new work, they added another depth of interpretation, letting me see the piece through another lens.

Though photography took a step back, collage and composition got a good workout during this long year of lockdowns. These pieces are still very much me: digital, layered, warmly colored, and full of layers of decision-making and thought processes, recorded in each mark and adjustment. See all the pieces in the series here.

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