(Click to enlarge)
Exultation is the going
Of an inland soul to sea –
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity!
Bred as we, among the mountains
Can the sailor understand
The divine intoxication
Of the first league out from land?
Before visual art did, literature showed me how we form meaning, and revealed art’s ability to make us more deeply aware of the intricacies of our own experience. I remember when most poems seemed opaque to me like locked boxes, and I would struggle to grasp phrases like the lines quoted above written by Emily Dickinson.
When I finally understood a poem, I was surprised at how readily it could be absorbed and internalized like a beautiful new wallpaper in the room of my mind, one that I could then use as a reference for events taking place in my own life.
This close connection with literature persists and colors my work as a visual artist. I seldom start, as other painters do, with a person or place I see before me. Instead, it’s usually something intangible that inspires my paintings. How do you visually portray contradictions within yourself? The feeling of bewilderment in a Kafka short story? The wordless, intuitive connection you have with your brother or sister?
Encouraging and unraveling the visual ideas that these quandaries spark, I seek ways to depict them in paint using human figures, landscapes, and animals. It’s a little like trying to remember a dream. Letting go of conscious control and opening to suggestion allows for spontaneous connections. If I’m sketching out a composition in response to a specific poem, I often pause to read and reread it as I’m working, trying to draw out subtleties and form new visual interpretations.
Recently, my work has also taken influence from the modernists’ celebration of seeing as an active, idiosyncratic process. Their awareness of the subjectivity of perception pairs well with my goal to reveal the subjective associations I have with narrative threads. By integrating their example, it is my hope to further unite the subject matter of my paintings with the way in which they are painted.
Mollie Hosmer-Dillard lives in Ridgewood, Queens, where she works as a painter and translator of German to English. You can see more of her paintings at www.molliehd.com.