s k y p o w e r
explores visual aspects of transformation
Texas-born Sky Power is an artist of seemingly endless energy, talent and warmth, who has pieced together a crazy-quilt life, enabling her to live comfortably, if not lavishly, on the Cape year-round. By trade she is a piano tuner, so booked she cares for three or four instruments a week, from Provincetown to the Sagamore Bridge. You might say her avocation is woodworking and furniture-making, although she no longer commits to outside jobs for other people. Too time-consuming she says; private commissions were beginning to cut into her most precious time of all, that which she devotes to painting.
In a recent interview in her North Truro studio, Power traced the progression of her life from early childhood in the Texas Panhandle to her ultimate choice of the lower Cape as her permanent adult home. In between were stints in Wyoming, Washington, and California. Acutely aware of her physical surroundings as key inspiration for her canvases, Power compares the effect of the perfectly flat vastness of Texas to that evinced by the expansive openness of the Atlantic. There is a natural tension between the hard edge of the horizon and the vivid turmoil of color and light that informs her abstract art.
Power has focused
on a related but more internalized tension in a fascinating series
of paintings titled ‘The Bardo of Dream’, now showing at
Tristan Gallery. In this exhibit, she will present five two-foot-by-two-foot
oil-on-Masonite panels and one diptych which explore and express the
Bardo experience. Power explains her chosen theme as the concept or
realization that allows two opposite emotions to exist at the same
moment. Her dreamscapes convey the transitional space between the death
of one state of mind and rebirth of another, where a person can undergo
a change in consciousness and move towards greater self-awareness.
Power has only recently completed a triptych, which may be included in this exhibit. Painted in much the same vein as the originally selected six panels, although in brighter, freer shades of lavenders, yellows and blues, this piece may well be the last painting she works on until the fall due to demands for her piano-tuning.
Power is a cerebral, articulate artist who has learned to reconcile the often- disparate worlds of words versus visual imagery. As she says: "I am more comfortable expressing my feelings visually. However, as an artist putting myself out into the world, it is also necessary to define my intention, which, in turn, helps me to define myself. Years ago I had resistance to that [idea] but I find it truly beneficial. I learn more about myself the more I am pushed to define myself." One can sense her delight in the sheer exuberance that abstract expression allows her to share with viewers. Her art is deeply spiritual, rooted in her Cherokee heritage as well as in her fascination with psychology, spirituality and eastern philosophy. By her own admission, virtually every canvas she has ever produced is part of the continuum of her artistic expression. "I think I am always back referencing; there are connections in my 'Bardo of Dream' series to work I was producing 30 years ago."
Power's earlier ‘Ikage Series,’ closely rooted in her heritage, recreates and reinterprets the power shields of ancient warriors, in solid, densely colored images, evocative of cyclones and, perhaps, the stormy history of her ancestors' contact with European settlers. As she describes these images: "As a woman, part Cherokee, ... I have created a series of shields as an act of empowerment by bringing the elements that define myself to my conscious identity. The lyrical iconography reflected in my symbols is reminiscent of musical notes, cattle brands and the Cherokee alphabet, representing my profession as a piano tuner, and my Texas and Native-American roots." Different still is a stunning trio of tribute to those who suffered on slave ships bound for the New World. Inspired by a PBS program related to the notorious ‘Amistad’, Power labored for close to six years on a meticulously conceived and crafted combination of Malaysian hardwood grids set against painted backdrops of sunset, midnight and the blue sky of day. Each piece fits tightly with the next, in mathematical precision, much as the once popular Rubik's cube. These grids symbolize the only sights allowed to the wretches shackled together in the dank filthy holds of ships.
Although Power's mode of expression is abstract, her work is grounded by a profound respect for the human form, which she loves to draw and sketch. Her early training was fairly traditional, even though two of her most influential teachers were academic members of the Fine Arts Dept. at Casper College in Wyoming. She often works on two or three pieces at the same time, allowing one to dry while she overpaints, sands, scrapes or washes another. She speaks enthusiastically of allowing images and ideas to be released from her canvases. It all seems to come down to a balance of spiritual and physical energy.
Hers is a constant
search for self- understanding and the need to share her insight publicly. ‘The
Bardo of Dream’, which will hang July 10-23, 2002, will preview
to collectors on July 11 and 12. The public opening will take place
at Tristan Gallery, 148 Commercial St., Provincetown, 7-9 p.m. on Saturday,
July 13. For additional information call (508)487-3939.