Karla Van Vliet: New Paintings
I am a painter, poet, and student of the dream. I have long been fascinated with creating meaning and opening places of feeling by generating marks on the page, be it letter or character, dendritic form or simple line and shape. My work originates from the practice of listening inwardly for what wants to arise and be expressed. From this Gnostic perspective, creation and content rise from the feeling, knowing self.
Karla Van Vliet studied painting and sculpture at Bennington College, received her BA from Goddard College and received her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is an Archetypal Dreamwork analyst and creator/facilitator of Art and the Practice of Presence and the author of a book of poems entitled The River From My Mouth (North of Eden Press, 2010). She is the Featured Artist in Stone Voices (mag), Spring, 2014, published by Shanti Arts.
Faces arose on the page again and again, as I scored the wet watercolor paper walnut or Payne’s gray ink clung to the pulp making line, the contour of a face, an eye, a lip, or rode across the water leaving mood and atmosphere, each face different. Over 150 drawings, each a woman’s face. I think of them as the soul within, Alma.
I was compelled to draw again and again the face, each woman arrived with her own expression, her own selfness. I covered my wall with these faces all looking out at me with their stories, their Alma (soul) Within, miniature portraits. One then another seemed to call out to me to be highlighted, and I began experimenting, using simple yet ornate framing elements in mixed media, mounting on larger panels. This created a piece that accentuated the face; each sharply stark and striking.
These pieces I call scored paintings uses a technique I created to have the look and feel of an etching. The process incorporates aspects of painting and drawing. I score the surface of the painting and then apply and remove paint, over and over, as the paint fills in the scoring to create line and form. I work with several recurring patterns and images that resonate in me. Another aspect of the paintings is the dialogue between the horizontal and the vertical, a conversation between the world above and world below, the outer world and inner world.
The discovered poems arise from pages of text, words are spotlighted to create a new meaning out of a prior existence, the discovered poem. As well I have incorporated layering techniques and mixed-media methods to further develop the poems into artistic statements.
A few years ago I had a dream in which my friend was teaching me how to move through walls. She said, “Like this,” and pressed her head against the wall. I thought, in the dream, That can’t work, but placed my head against the wall as she had. In that moment I felt the wall open and I moved through. I had the understanding that what can look solid also holds open space.
In these new paintings I have been exploring open space and negative space; how structure can hold form and open form. From atoms to dragonfly wings, from riverbeds to trees to mountain ranges.
I call these my dendritic paintings; form created which resembles branching like a tree, often in reference to nerve cells and the crystalline structures of rocks and minerals. I work with these questions: In setting these shapes down on the page, what emerges? How do these shapes relate to each other? How does color create tension or harmony within the piece?
Recently I had a dream in which I held a pendant with one of my paintings on it under my tongue. It represented my devotion to God. In my dream I showed it to the male leader of a group of believers escaping from the enemy. From this he knew that I was one of them, and I was admitted to his protection. These paintings arise from my deep listening to that voice within me I call God.
I work on both canvas and paper with acrylic paints, laying down thin layer after thin layer to create depth and conversation between colors. When I first started painting, I used Chinese ink, and “color” was the traditional five shades of ink: light wash to darkest black. After several years I yearned for more. This process of layering is teaching me the subtleties of color language.
I continue to explore these components of color and shape and structure and how they can come together and merge in my paintings.