Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Running the Artist

When I was in college I went to visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. I actually went there without the force of my parents. At the age of 21, I was ready to experience something beyond myself, which is why I went to the museum in the first place. It is a dramatic facility with many forms of art parading the walls, isles and expansive lawn. To my surprise, I was blessed with the miracle of finding my favorite painting, and subsequent painter, on those walls.
Thomas Hart Benton has been described by critics as packing his murals with complexity and energy. Many of his paintings depict the Mid-Western landscape and depression-era life with wildly powerful human forms. His uniquely realistic American images have moved people to tears – tears of rage as well as love. I remember standing in front of his paintings, in awe. His paintings struck me like no other work of art and I was engulfed in his visual story.
I realized that perspective is what the painter brings to our souls. They paint for us to see clearly, or confuse us in to changing the way we understand all together. In order for us to truly value the artist, we must appreciate their point of view. I decided to interview another artist, whose painting of two young girls in the Dominican Republic, called Las Chicas, inspired me almost as much as Mr. Benton’s painting Persephone.

Lera Main of Durango, Colorado is not only a very active painter; she is also a competitive runner. Below is a short interview about her painting and running pursuits.

Lera, how would you categorize your art?

I really have a hard time categorizing my art. I think it's rather pointless to place your art under a particular heading because then you feel restricted. It's based on my travels and emotions. Some say that it resembles the Mexican Muralist's art.

2. Where was the last place you displayed your art?

Carver's, a local Durango eatery.

3. Now, let’s talk about painting upside down. Tell me about it.

I do it so that I focus on the shapes and colors more in my paintings rather than the objects I'm painting. Humans have preconceived notions of what things should look like. If I am painting right side up, I'm thinking person, person, person, whose nose should go here... If I paint upside down it's harder to recognize the image and I focus on the shapes and colors, which in turn make for a more accurate image.

4. What does painting mean to you?

Wow, that's broad. It doesn't mean anything; it's more of a necessary act. Like breathing; if I don't paint I begin to slip into a mild form of depression and anxiety. It's a release of emotion on canvas.

5. Do you escape in to your paintings?

I don't escape, but rather release. It's impossible to escape your reality, unless in an intense form of meditation. Painting is much too intense to be meditation for me. It's the pinnacle of all of my emotions at their height, much too intense for an escape. I escape by running, which is a form of meditation for me, or hallucination.

6. How long have you run?

10 years

7. Did you run for Fort Lewis College all four years?

No, just the first three.

8. What is your favorite distance? Your favorite race?

My favorite distance now is the half marathon. However my favorite race is Kennebec, which is a bit longer than a half.

9. Has running helped you become a better painter?

I think of some excellent ideas on my runs for paintings.

10. Have you ever painted someone running? I mean while they were running?

No, that's weird.

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