The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Moving Into Color: Paintings 1987 - 1992 (2006)

Catalog essay for exhibition at Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, Edison College, Ft. Myers, Florida, January 20 - February 26, 2006.

It is an artist's truism that to change your art, change your studio. When I relocated to Miami in 1989 I knew my art would be affected. But changes in art are no more predictable than changes in life. You can make them deliberately, but not willfully; they have to work. It takes time.

Before coming here I had evolved a painting method I called "brush and cut," using large canvases, large amounts of colored gel medium, an industrial floor squeegee (the "cut" or scraping away) and a wooden-bristled street broom on an extendable pole for the brushing. These pictures are essentially very large, abstract dry-brush drawings, painted on canvas stapled to a 20 foot platform. The ones here are dated 1987.

We humans have fixed up South Florida with lots of palm trees and pink buildings but it is, by nature, a harsh place, a tropical desert with lots of water. The one truly beautiful thing about Florida, one we cannot mess with, is the evening sky, especially during rainy season. I noticed that, and the mischievous rainfall, soft air and laser sunlight right away. The sky on some evenings is full of strange, garish colors that should not go together but do anyway.

When I began painting in Florida in 1990 I started in with the same "brush and cut" method but began to enrich the base coat, the part the brushing goes onto, laying on layers of transparent yellows and oranges in polymer medium laced with fluorescent, iridescent and interference pigments. I finished an entire series before I realized that I had been unconsciously replicating the experience of looking at a Florida evening sky through the darkening silhouette of the landscape. My brain was telling me that it will do what it wants to do whether I know about it or not. This happens all the time in art making.

In the late spring of 1990, at a time I was having a "painter's block" with the large paintings, the small landscapes on paper burst out of nowhere as a spasm of mixed joy and frustration. I painted them by the dozens and periodically still do. Those here, in the recess in the back of the gallery, were painted in 1996 and happen to be the only ones I had framed.

Those, in turn, motivated me to go all out with color in 1991 and 1992. If the sky can do it so can I, I told myself. So I did a series of acrylic pictures that push the bright, gaudy background colors to the forefront. You will recognize those pictures by those characteristics.

Art is for your pleasure. I hope you enjoy the pictures. And if you haven't noticed the western sky in the evening take a look at that too.