Thirty years ago, I traveled to Taiwan to meet the most famous artist of the country, A Sun Woo. He was a formidable artist, having lived with indigenous tribes six months of each year in Africa to living with the cannibals in Papua New Guinea. He invited me to a country club to meet with him. Once there, I witnessed the figure of my friend sitting on top of a 20 foot scaffold, working on a monumental painting in black and white. His work was reminiscent of DeKooning, very abstract expressionistic and powerful. That vision of A-Sun creating that gigantic painting like in The Agony and the Ecstasy was that magic instant for me when I knew I wanted to create awe-inspiring magic on canvas.
I was given the opportunity this past summer by GERDING EDLEN DEVELOPMENT, a Portland-based real estate investment firm whose motto is: PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY. Social Impact is an important part of their commitment to "OWNING, OPERATING AND DEVELOPING VIBRANT PROPERTIES THAT POSITIVELY ENHANCE OUR COMMUNITIES, NEIGHBORHOODS AND THE PLANET." This was a perfect pairing to my work with recycled plastics in trying to bring awareness to the state of our environment,
I had worked with them before, when they built THE JONES, another LEED Certified Gold building designated by the United States Green Building Council. They had asked me to submit some works by a number of the artists we represent at Hilton Asmus Contemporary. A short while later, I receive a note asking me to forward images from my MULTIVERSE series. I sent them and received a note back saying, "Arica, it's you we want! Can you paint an 8 x 18 foot oil on canvas for the lobby of our new development going up in the West Loop?"
They chose two of my Multiverse paintings as examples and commissioned me to paint the BIG ONE. The assignment was to paint a color field study in oranges and yellows. My summer of 2017 was spent first having an 8 x 18 foot canvas made. That was an engineering marvel. It had to be assembled and disassembled 3 times. Once the canvas was stretched, the layering process began with the designated colors: cadmium orange, cadmium orange pure, red orange, yellow orange and every existing orange paint imaginable. And then the yellows: lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow pure, cadmium yellow medium pure, Radiant yellow, Naples yellow, pure and hues and so on. There were endless combinations of orange and yellow that It was an interesting journey. I learned more about the two colors in that short time than I had in all the years of painting.
When I received the commission, the building had not been built yet. Although I had the architectural drawings, I had no idea how it was going to really look until a few days before the installation. Would the light on the painting be similar to the light in my studio. Would the colors translate differently in its new home? Will they like it? As simple as the colors appear, I painted endless layers of oranges and yellows weaving in and out of one another. I loved the color scheme because it reminded me of the orange and lemon orchards of my childhood on the Mediterranean.
Orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. It is associated with joy, sunshine, and the tropics. Orange represents enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement, and stimulation.
To the human eye, orange is a very hot color, so it gives the sensation of heat. Nevertheless, orange is not as aggressive as red. Orange increases oxygen supply to the brain, produces an invigorating effect, and stimulates mental activity. As a citrus color, orange is associated with healthy food and stimulates appetite. Orange is the color of fall and harvest. It is symbolic of strength and endurance.
Much in common with orange, yellow is another citrus color and the color of sunshine. It is associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. It produces a warming effect, arouses cheerfulness, stimulates mental activity, and generates muscle energy. Yellow is usually found to be uplifting, increasing confidence and optimism. It is the color of life energy and associated with awakening and inspiration.
It is not often an artist is afforded the opportunity to make such a bold statement. I painted monumental paintings before that are hanging in public spaces. My 10 foot painting UNIVERSE, Life Unlimited, hangs in the lobby of the outpatient center of Mount Sinai Hospital. Thousands of people walk by it on a daily basis. It is very gratifying feeling. But this one was different. It was not only in the interior of the space, it was visible from the street. People can see it when they walk or drive by the building during the day and even more so after dark. How wonderful is that?
With gratitude to my team: Dan Corwith, Michael Whelan and Patrick Lyne. They did a stellar job in reassembling the canvas onsite! It took nearly 4 hours to for the install process! Patience, faith and expertise! So many facets involved in painting this. The bones of this painting, the frame and hand milled French cleats on the back are a work of art in themselves!
I was hoping to take a break and maybe go somewhere with sand between my toes and taste the oranges of the orchards and the yellow of the sun on my face, but no go. I am in my studio preparing for my upcoming show at the Union League Club of Chicago on October 5th. I have waited for many years for the honor to exhibit my works at this venerable club with one of the finest collections of art in the country. But the irony is, they asked me for smaller paintings! Seriously! What would be considered small after becoming so intimate with an 8 x 18 foot canvas? I had forgotten that 18 feet is not your everyday size!
So now is the test. Come by the Union League Club on October 5th and you can see the transformation from 18 feet to 18 inches! But seriously, there will be a few paintings that are normal size. :-)