Friday, August 14, 2009

"No matter what surfaces in life...

...I am aware of the invitation to expand. It surrounds me, calling from the wintry trees, a silent singing bowl, and the darkest hours at the lake."

Ellicott City artist, Doreen Starling, paints with her soul and I can't think of any other way to put it. Her work seems to this viewer like a door. One is indeed invited or almost seduced to look beyond, beneath--deeply--into spirit, an exploration of self in relationship to the universe. Her work communicates to the viewer, the way a satisfying poem communicates to the reader, saying we are all connected.

When I asked Doreen to talk about her paintings she put it this way: "I explore the dichotomy of beauty within the pain, the invitation to expand and illuminate from darkness...

Then, she elaborated:

...My art is a double-sided coin: Each piece contains opposing forces that could not exist without one another, such as loss and celebration, pain and redemption, light and dark.

For example, I painted a series of night scenes of a lake, where a string of lights and the last light of the sky illuminated the darkness. Metaphorically and literally, I search for something that shines in the dark."

"I often paint the same scene or object as a series, returning to find layers of beauty from different views and treatments of the same subject. I challenge myself to “see” not just visually but intuitively. I also feel that I am paying homage to my subject by painting it repeatedly, so the process becomes a dedicated meditation to my subject."

In this series (only one is shown), the light water becomes darker, greener, more mysterious while the bather remains static. It does indeed have a meditative quality because of the repetition--like a chant.

Birds in flight have been
a frequent subject
for Starling.

One can see the marked progression from a realistic flight form
to an expressionistic style, below. In this painting,
the birds appear to be at the whim of wind as they topple, and perhaps even struggle to stay in flight. At its essence,
they survive in beauty.

In still another sharp focus, says Starling:

"I paint from old family photos to portray how the photos themselves—faded, distressed, and discolored—shape our memories of that time, as well as remind us of how delicate and transient our lives are: everyone is encased in time, and all matter deteriorates.

The kitschy pinks and oranges of my family photos from the ’70s have a warmth and quirkiness that feels familiar to my childhood...

...For me, the photos themselves are as real as the memories and stories I’ve heard that have built in my imagination views of our family’s past. They are the storytellers and the story.

I use elements from the time that I’m painting, or are suggestive of the time, people, and places that I’m painting, such as my Oma’s wallpaper, old letters or dishes, or a heavier fabric weave that might suggest the 70s."

For this viewer and blogger, the painting above of Doreen Starling's Mother and Grandmother on Oma's wallpaper simply takes my breath away because of its multi-layered entrance to the past, memory, family. But my favorite is her lake series, and I hope she continues in this vein.


Leaving Prague, Oil on window shade, 7" x 11" 2007.
Lake, night #2 , Oil on paper, 4" x 6" 2009.
Submerse, Oil on wood board, 12" x 12" 2009.
Birds, Oil on canvas 12" x 12" 2002.
Birds against a Blue Sky, Gouache on paper, 4" x 4.5" 2007.
My Family, Oil on Canvas, 9" x 11" 2007.
Mom and Oma, Oil on Oma's wallpaper, 12" x 12" 2008.

Blog feature by Kay Weeks
Photos of paintings: Doreen Starling
Text: Kay Weeks and Doreen Starling

To see more of Starling's paintings and photos--with the option of choosing a larger
size--go to and simply enter her name: Doreen Starling.


Lisa Simeone said...

Gorgeous! I didn't know Starling's work and am glad I found it. (Am already a huge fan of Rebecca Weber, about whom you've written in the past.) It seems that almost everything in Ellicott City is magical.

Anonymous said...

A friend in CA looked at your pix on Facebook (face) and said you looked "exotic." Passing it on!