“FREE: Pathways Toward Freedom“, a solo show by Melynda Van Zee, will be open October 3 through November 29, 2017 at the Main Gallery of the Ankeny Art Center 1520 SW Ordnance Road Ankeny, IA 50023. Please join us for the Opening Reception on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 5-7 pm. The gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday 9am-1pm, Thursday 4pm-7pm, Saturday 9am-Noon.
In “FREE: Pathways Toward Freedom” Central Iowa artist Melynda Van Zee uses spiral imagery to express the deep inner work necessary to finding equilibrium and energy to pursue a creative life. The spiral is one of the most commonly found design forms in nature and is symbolic of growth and transformation. From the galaxies to DNA to our fingertips, spirals are prevalent in natural formations and are one of the most efficient ways for something to grow. For the past ten years she has used her painting process as a method of internal excavating to discover her path.
Dear Creative Heart,
This is the time of year that I am spending hours in the studio fighting the battle of creative courage. It is the time of year when all the time spent dreaming and reflecting about what I will be creating in 2017 starts to unfold.
When the sun is shining and light is pouring through the windows of my upstairs sunroom studio, it helps me to find the inspiration to put the brush to canvas.
You can also find me this time of the year in my basement studio. This is a much bigger space so I have room for canvases in various stages from beginning to end. Some are drying from a layer of gesso which is the very first layer I apply to canvas. Some canvases have just had the clear line work laid down, and some have reached the finishing stages-ready for the sides to be painted and the multiple protective layers of isolation coat and varnish to be applied.
So many pieces are in progress right now…but still I work from this place of not knowing. It is in this place of not knowing where the battle of creative courage intensifies on an hourly and daily basis.
This is the place where I have to remind myself time and again that listening to what is in my heart is the way to taking the next step.
This is the place where I am deeply grateful that I have to opportunity to wrestle with translating thought, feeling and experience to the canvas in vibrant color.
Keep creating friends.
Keep ushering art into your life in all its various forms.
Look for the light, it is waiting to be found.
My dearest creative hearts,
I’m sitting at my computer desk gazing out of my window on a gorgeous fall afternoon- it is an unbelievable 72 degrees on Nov. 4. (I am born and raised in Iowa and we are long trained to start most any conversation with a comment on the weather!) And, now that the gorgeous weather conversation has got us going…what’s really on my heart and mind is a recent artistic challenge I’ve been wrestling with.
One question I have been frequently asked is “Do you have any paintings in neutral colors?” Now to be honest- I’ve met these requests to paint with more neutrals with a variety of responses…down right ignoring them, laughing them off, feigning interest while internally shouting “But I DON’T paint neutrals, they are boring”, followed by a crossing my arms pose while internally staking my claim “I paint COLOR!” Occasionally I would let myself wonder, maybe I could try it, but then a whole other host of excuses and fears would rise up. I would worry that in light of my earlier work with bright colors, I “shouldn’t paint neutrals” because it might dilute the signature colors I usually put on my palette. Artists are trained by professionals and gallery owners to do consistent work in a recognizable palette and style so that people can easily recognize the work-deviating from the known can create marketing challenges. But, underneath all the mental gymnastics, what I think was really going on was fear- fears I wouldn’t figure out the technical difficulties of switching to a new color palette, fears the paintings wouldn’t be beautiful (what if people don’t like them?), fears that maybe people would think maybe I was “going through a hard time” if I starting painting gray paintings. Oh- the power of fear to block our creative experiments!
I wish I could tell you that I was so self aware that right away I just started painting neutral paintings. But the reality is that I had to personally do the steps to the creative process that I have taught in my classes so many times throughout the years. One benefit of having painted for many years is that I am becoming more knowledgable about my own resistance patterns to creativity. Sometimes I can’t or don’t take the time to step back and figure out what is going on internally, to really digest what truly is getting in the way.
What finally helped to break my creative roadblock was taking a walk to one of my favorite places-Lake Red Rock. I explored again old territory by doing a slow walk across the remaining section of Horn’s Ferry Bridge that still rises above the Des Moines River.
I allowed myself to go and hang out at a place I have been hundreds of times before, but this time I saw it with fresh eyes. I walked the planks searching for inspiration and sure enough I found it-under my feet.
The weathered boards…
The creative cycle going full circle- a problem to solve, making something new from something old, letting the past speak into my future, letting my specific place in this world inform my art and inspire new creative leaps. A settling of my spirit in knowing that this series of work is authentic to me and my story and my places. And, that the seemingly simple requests for more paintings in a neutral color palette took me on a creative ride back to pieces of my own story.
You have the opportunity to purchase one of the new “Horns Ferry Bridge” series at any one of these three upcoming shows in central Iowa or by contacting me directly at the studio- just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested.
2016 Art Show Schedule
I’m also working on a collaborative painting with artist Chris Vance for the upcoming Paintpushers show “Collision”. Painting in progress now- make plans to see the collaborative piece and meet all the Paintpusher artists at the opening reception on Dec. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club!
2016 Art Exhibits
Dear Creative Heart,
Throughout this year, I’ve been developing a new series of paintings. Earlier this year I wrote about the very beginning phases of this new series. I have continued working through additional pieces in the series focused on the visual symbol of the sphere. The sphere (or circle) has been a fascinating vehicle for so many ideas running through my thoughts and for translating experiences from real life. The spheres I have painted have been containers of color, thought, pattern, brush strokes, design, and internal processes.
A few weeks ago I finished “Spheres of Connection”. It seems appropriately titled since we just celebrated one year in our new home and new community. So much has been brought full circle in our lives and for that I am deeply grateful.
Next week at the art fair in Lake Geneva, WI, I’ll be debuting the newest piece in my ongoing spheres series entitled “Spheres of Diversity”. The news stories of the summer have highlighted again the diversity of struggles still facing our culture in so many arenas. One question that strikes me is how different would our world be if we would look more for the beauty in our diversity instead of the divide? My sense is that the time has come to focus on uncovering the beauty in our complex stories and unique experiences so that together we can be voices who bring a new focus, a fresh hope and eyes of wisdom to the deep hurt and divide in our culture.