Beyond Form

 |  November 29, 2011

Beyond Form
encaustic mixed media
12×12 inches

This month I have mainly concentrated on two things in the studio: 1)Working in and finishing up the collaborative books with Hanne. 2)Reworking old paintings that I thought were done, but apparently were not. This is one of them. It is now done and I am content with it.


Being originally from the gentle rolling hills of Maryland, I never quite got used to the flatlands in Illinois when I came here for college back in 1994. And then we moved to Seattle, where hills and mountains were the way of life amd lifestyle. A landscape that is such that when Mt. Rainier peeks out of the clouds, you have to stop and catch your breath. When we moved back to Chicago, the utter flatness of the land just killed me. If you’re ever flying into O’Hare, just look out your window and you’ll hear me in your head yelling about how utterly flat it is here! I mean, how can it be so flat???? But it was and this was my new home. I’ve mentioned before that it took me about two years to readjust living in a big urban city again. It was a hard two years. But then something magical happened at two years- I fell back in love with Chicago. And now that we’re at three years I have to finally admit that I’ve fallen in love with the flatness and the earthy colors of the midwest.

I can’t remember if it was Shayla or Angela, blog friends, who commented on the palette change in my paintings that occurred probably toward the later part of my first year here. It was a very astute observation….and it was an awakening to me that I was starting to accept my surroundings. For the past 2 1/2 years my work has definitely shown an influence of the land around me, whether it is an actual landscape or prairie plant image or with the palette. The Chicago urban grunge has also seeped into my work. The rust and the greys. The layers of graffiti, ads, tags, dirt, wear, and tear.


Instead of going shopping on Black Friday, we headed out of the city to find some nature. That always grounds us. And it always inspires my work.

I have to admit that I have a lot to learn about what a prairie is. I always pictured Laura Ingalls Wilder walking in a sea of grass without a tree in sight. But here, at least close to Chicago, there is a mix. And then I wonder, well, is this a real prairie? But then that would make it fake and that just doesn’t make sense. Well, I’ve learned that there are different types of prairie and that the majority of the original prairie in Illinois has been destroyed.


“Loneliness, thy other name, thy one true synonym, is prairie.” ~ William A. Quayle


I must confess that I have a weakness of empty places. ~ Tony Hillerman


…I walk here and there, seeking open,
flat spaces against a sky up high.
I have discovered, too late, perhaps
that I always preferred the empty
more than the full
for breathing and forgiving.
– Teresa Palomo Acosta

my little explorer, 20 months old


  1. by jeliza on November 29, 2011  1:52 am Reply

    Wow. That painting has so much *presence*. Beautiful

  2. by Jennifer on November 29, 2011  7:16 am Reply

    Beautiful piece. Beautiful post.

    I moved to CT from VA (DC area) 6 years ago and am still becoming accustomed to the hills, twisty roads and, most of all, the over abundance of trees. The long view that comes with the flatness of the land, the openness, the grandness of it is sorely missed up here. Thank you for posting the prairie photos. They're a breath of fresh air!

  3. by nacherluver on November 29, 2011  11:26 am Reply

    Your piece is lovely as always. Interesting take on the land. I loved listening to what you had to say and what Jennifer's response is. Eye opening for me. I'm from the midwest and long for the mountains and ocean. Not sure if it's the gypsy in me or what. I guess it would be nice to love where I am no matter where I am. Lesson learned, notes taken, now to do the work.

  4. by bridgette on November 29, 2011  11:42 am Reply

    Thanks Jeliza.

    Hi Jennifer, I grew up right outside of DC, MD side though. The VA side is beautiful, I remember. Twisty roads and wooded hills sound lovely though! I love them both.

    I am the same N- I always seem to long for whatever is not in front of me. I love the mountains and the ocean as well. This switch of acceptance and finding the beauty of where I am is a new thing for me! Something that I'm always working on. Thank goodness for my art as I'm not sure the transition would have been as easy or as apparent!

  5. by merci33 on November 29, 2011  1:18 pm Reply

    Lovely ...the now completed work...and the colors...and the artist eye that shows, through the camera lens... the stong patterns of horizontals and verticles combined.

    You bring to mind, as you adjust to the 'being here now' the wonderful Rumi line: "Let the beauty you love be the work that you do... there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

    How smart to 'get outta Dodge' on Black Friday...I went to the water and floated in my boat....ahhhhhhhhh...a different kind of prairie flatness.

  6. by Megan Noel on November 29, 2011  2:18 pm Reply

    BEAUTIFUL! I never met a landscape I did not like. I would love to get to explore the prairie more. on my train ride last week we moved through landscapes some would call desolate but i find them soothing.

  7. by bridgette on November 29, 2011  10:33 pm Reply

    donna- thank you and thank you for that Rumi quote- I love it. Glad you got to be still in your own watery prairie.

    Megan- that's a good perspective to take about landscapes. I've seen footage of the sparse landscape of Mongolia and it takes my breath away, so I know exactly what you mean.

  8. by Seth on December 22, 2011  11:34 am Reply

    These are such gorgeous photographs. They really transport me.

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