Santa Fe, NM– Chiaroscuro is pleased to present the 2022 season opener with a solo exhibition by abstract painter Gayle Crites titled, Murmuring Skies. The new exhibition brings together approximately a dozen larger scale works on tapa paper. This body of work explores the artist’s ideas and feelings about climatic change and global warming through her abstract and representative visual language.
Murmuring Skies was inspired by scientific reports from the UK about cloud sensitivity. I was fascinated with these fact-based studies. After all, science is a secure way to understand the dynamics of our planet. Far away from personal opinion and political bias, here was evidence grounded by science. I wanted to be a visual interpreter of this chain of reactions in the atmosphere. The clouds are speaking to me. They cool and warm the earth. As I observe changes in our skies, my paintings reflect subtle transitions, color chemistry alterations and compositional transformations….echoes of the cloud feedback studies themselves.
First, there was the need to find a natural material on which to paint. I found my preferred canvas, barkcloth, while traveling in Peru, Tonga, New Zealand, Nicaragua and Hawaii. Bark comprises some of the world’s oldest cloth, and it is still hand-pounded by indigenous women in various parts of the world. It goes by a variety of names, including tapa, kapa, siapo, tuna, llanchama… among a few I’ve collected, some of which are represented in this exhibition.
Next, while working with Zapotec weavers and dyers in Oaxaca, Mexico, I was mentored in the use of historic natural dyes such as cochineal red and organic pericón (Tagetes lucida) yellow. I came to respect the generations of artisans who developed techniques for adding color from insects and plants to textiles, and how to make that color survive…..and come back to life.
Finally, with research into ancient pigment recipes, I found a way to use natural earth minerals, clays and oxides to make my own paint. Using dirt-sourced paint from various parts of the world, its beauty added yet another layer of characteristic colors to my bark canvases.
Murmuring Skies is Crites’ fourth solo exhibition at Chiaroscuro since 2011. She continues to travel internationally sourcing tapa paper and collecting knowledge and ingredients to make her own paint for artwork. With regard to cochineal red in particular, one of Crites’ major works titled, “Then Now/Now Then”,was included in the traveling museum exhibition, The Red That Colored the World, organized by the Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, NM. This exhibition included historic work by cultures and artists worldwide. The show was accompanied by a hardback reference volume, A Red Like No Other, which includes more than three hundred images and essays by a team of international experts. Crites’ piece, Then Now/Now Then, illustrated in A Red Like No Other, represents her contemporary practice of incorporating the ancient natural tints and tones of cochineal into her abstractions on tapa paper.