Belonging ~ Origin Story

creativity, Narrative, Origin story, process, Works In Progress

Belonging (2021)
Collaged transcripts, oil & cold wax medium on wood panel
36″x 60″

The daily writing practice I started when I was 7 has become the creative cornerstone of my life. Writing makes my subconscious conscious—it is my key to mining the stories I’ve inherited about who I am and where I come from. Then I head into my studio to make sense of what I have just unearthed. The act of creating shows me where I stand in the flow between cultural inheritance and legacy.

Family stories form the foundation of this painting…

June 28, 2021: A new piece has me burrowing back in to the family stories I collected for my film, A Lot Like You. I’m cutting up transcripts of stories told to me by my family on Mt. Kilimanjaro, and gluing them onto a 36″x60″ wood panel. Even in paper form, my Aunts’ stories are arresting. What a gift that time was. 17 years later, I’m still feeling the ripple effects of our conversation in the hut. (I tell the story of our time together in my 2016 TEDxSeattle talk, Why the World Needs Your Story.)

June 28, 2021 (end of day): Record breaking 110° in the studio today. Foundation laid. 15 square feet of transcripts. Calling it a day. Going to melt into a G&T!

July 13, 2021: Laying down some warm tones over the collaged transcripts ~ the first of many layers to come. I expect this painting to be a slow and steady build over the coming weeks.

July 14, 2021: Next layer on the 36″x60″ transcript painting…

July 19, 2021: Can’t stop laughing at this guy! No time to paint the last 4 days, so my starting layers totally dried. Time to start again. It’s way too early to be precious about any of this. So I get to start the day scribbling, doodling, writing, painting with colors I don’t usually use to reactivate the surface. Getting this piece from 0 to 60 so I can cruise into the week ahead…

July 20, 2021: 36″x60″ Work in Progress (end of day): Not what I was expecting. Really curious to see how this painting evolves. You can still see the trace remains of my guy…

July 30, 2021: It’s been Tweak Week over there, troubleshooting and finalizing these two paintings ~ a combined 30sq.ft. of this Paul Klee/Gees Bend-inspired meditation on color.

September 13, 2021: The best test for me to see if a piece is ready to move out into the world is to try it out in my home. Living with a piece in my everyday environment helps me see it with fresh eyes and notice if there are trouble spots I need to resolve. After a week, in the kitchen, I had to make some tweaks to this painting. But now, it’s feeling pretty good in every orientation. Nothing’s poking out at me, demanding my attention. Will live with it a little while longer and see how it feels. If all goes well, I might include this piece in a show at the end of the month.

Memorial Day (Commission) – Origin Story

collaboration, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress
This Spring, I received a captivating commission request. Chris Weber and Jack Gingrich were long-time employees and soon-to-be co-owners of The Herbfarm, a restaurant that creates thematic 9-course dinners showcasing the exceptional seasonal food and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In his initial email, Chris shared The Herbfarm’s compelling origin story. Theirs is an inter-generational story of hope, ambition, success, tragedy, resilience, and grace. At its essence, this painting would be about inheritance and legacy ~ my creative core. As I read it, I could clearly see how every layer of this painting could correspond to a chapter in The Herbfarm’s life.


On our site visit, a few more things came into focus. The decor of the restaurant is formal Victorian, which is not in my artistic wheelhouse. Having an abstract piece was going to be a departure, so I wanted to keep it simple, organic and elegant. I wanted the painting to feel like a weathered, textured rock face you might encounter on a hike. Against the dark walls, this statement piece would be mostly white and monochromatic. We decided on a diptych with a circle connecting the two halves, but wanted to make sure the two halves could also stand on their own. And mimicking the restaurant’s palette, I limited my paint palette to natural, earth-based pigments ~ ochres, umbers, saffron, indigo… 

 

The following process photos show the evolution of this painting. The captions are pulled from Chris’s initial email…but you can find a beautiful rendition of The Herbfarm’s history on their website.

The original owners, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman, started this restaurant in a plant nursery; Memorial Day 1986. 

 

 
It was built from the ground up…

 

The restaurant flourished…

 
…receiving national recognition and a dedicated cult following within a decade. 

 

 

 

 

 In January 1997, an electrical fire burned the restaurant and offices to the ground. 

Origin Story – “Where Justice Meets Joy”

creativity, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress

This piece taught me about the role of art in my life, which I wrote about here. But I wanted to assemble the origin story of this painting. So here’s a look back at the rather challenging evolution of this painting.

. . . . . . . .

2/14/2020: New day, new words, new piece. The words inscribed on this piece is the following quote from John O’Donohue: “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

2/14/2020 End of Day: This metro map of my hometown will be coursing thru the painting like veins just below the surface. #Rockville #RedLine

2/20/20: I seem to have painted myself into a corner. By the end of the day, the painting was feeling too tight and controlled.

3/2/20: …and now for something Completely Different. The metro piece has taken a turn as I play with perspective and purples for a change.💜

Point of Process

#NoPanelLeftBehind, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, process, Story, Works In Progress

I’ve recently become aware that I need to refine how I talk about my creative process. My process is largely iterative ~ far from linear. I love repurposing old paintings, building upon the history that is already there. I’m happy to abandon ideas of where I was trying to steer my painting, and open myself up to where it wants to go.

But in the midst of these bold 180s, one can miss the fact that there is a method to the madness. Every layer is deliberate and serves a purpose. Every layer is infused with intention. And this intention, whether it can be seen in the final piece or just felt, can be sensed by the viewer when they stand in front of the finished painting.


For example, here are four starts to four separate pieces:

• A meditation on contemplative imagination (and the ways that our art can amplify our activism).

• 2 collaged panels of transcribed interviews with my family/Chagga tribal elders.

• And images of notable milestones in my life.

Even though my approach might seem intuitive and loose, rest assured, it is not random or mindless. Every layer serves a purpose and informs the final piece, even if they lie deeply embedded beneath the surface…🤓

Quieting the Mind – Origin Story

creativity, Narrative, Origin story, process, Works In Progress

🔴 1/5/2021: “Quieting the Mind” (40″x30″) is a painting I never thought would leave my house. It’s a subtle piece that’s impossible to photograph ~ so it was never going to sell online. And being mostly white, it didn’t show well on white gallery walls. So I stopped showing it/sharing it, and hung it in the espresso colored living room where I write every morning. Then a dear friend/neighbor/fellow artist asked if she could come by this weekend to see my paintings. And this is the piece that caught her eye. It’s amazing how each painting finds its way to the person who’s meant to have it. This one is easily overlooked by some, mesmerizing to others. And it’s a piece that could only ever have been bought by someone who saw it in person. Thank you for taking the time to notice this piece, S.G. I’m honored that it will be living on in your love-filled home at the end of the lane.🌸

Here is a look back at the relatively swift evolution of this piece.

. . . . . . . . .

May 19, 2019: Starting a new 30″x40″ piece with India ink calligraphy that says “Natural Woman.” I used my favorite jumbo brush (on the right) from Elizabeth Schowachert.

 

Process shots of the piece as it evolves, starting with blanket layers of colors.  First the warm layers…

 

…followed by the cool. I really like the feel at this stage. I love the fresh marks, the reds poking through, the shades of Spring green, the hints of dark and light. I have to actively resist falling in love with parts of the painting at this early stage. Because I know this is just getting started.

 

Swinging back to add more warms. The green/red is such an unusual combination for me. I think all the poppies on my morning walks are working their way into my paintings.

 

[Following the opening reception for my first solo show the previous night]: This introvert’s need to retreat after the high octane output of the past couple weeks is showing up in today’s painting, as I turn the volume down on the already quiet conversations in this piece. Spent most of the day scraping back and dissolving the surface layers to reveal the understory ~ then coating the piece with shades of warm white. Time for my painting (and me) to rest! So I’m putting it up on the kitchen wall, and will see how it feels in the light of day.

 

June 9, 2019: After a month of hanging on the wall, this piece is back on my easel for some fine tuning. The white was feeling a bit heavy handed in areas. So I scraped it back with a razor to let some more of the under layers poke through. Then I smoothed it over lightly with some cooler whites. This is one of my quietest pieces to date. And I love the submerged thoughts, ideas, memories poking through. Finding the sweet spot between hidden & revealed feels like the balancing act of quieting the monkey mind during meditation…

Origin Story ~ Slow Time (and the Joy Within)

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, Origin story, Works In Progress
Sept. 17, 2019: Hitting the reset button by scribbling on and laying down tons of color on old encaustic paintings that were going nowhere.  #NoPanelLeftBehind

September 18: Not my plan at all. But hunting through my doodle scaps, I found my elephant silhouette and couldn’t resist. This will likely get painted over on Friday,..but I’m leaving it today, because it’s bringing me joy.

December 1: Dreaming of going home to Tanzania so much lately.  It’s been 4+ years since our last family trip to Mt Kilimanjaro to see my parents.  Counting down the days…

The Scaled-Down Truth

Exhibition, Installation, Narrative, Story, Works In Progress

“The Truth Has No Borders” is a multimedia piece that integrates 40 years of writing, photography, music, film, and art into a single cohesive, immersive installation.

It was originally created to exhibit in a shipping container for COCA’s 30-day Storefronts [UN]contained Residency in 2016. Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to revisit this project, and fully realize my vision. But I’ve been struggling with how to convey the impact of this piece in grant/exhibition applications.

I shot this test video on-site when I only had the first two layers of paper panels up (I wanted to see how the projection & sound worked in the space.) The final installation had 7 layers of paper panels.  But my dream is to FILL the room with floor-to-ceiling encaustic paper panels — a layered paper screen embedded with images of my Mom’s Korean family, that are illuminated by the projected moving imagery of my Dad’s Chagga family on Kilimanjaro.

When I brought this dilemma to Larry Calkins, he suggested building a model of the project to film. Brilliant!!  And so my diorama project begins…(projection and sound to follow).

The many faces of “Broadstairs” (Origin story)

#NoPanelLeftBehind, Art, Exhibition, Narrative, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

One painting, from start to finish, in 768 days…

This 24″x 24″ painting has undergone a surprising number of transformations before finally settling on the Broadstairs piece currently exhibiting at Northwest Encaustics. As one of the more epic #NoPanelLeftBehind pieces, I decided to trace Broadstairs back to its origins, and offer snapshots of its evolution over the past 2 years…

March 13, 2017

Most of my pieces begin with writing…whether it be part of a journal entry, passage from a book, lyric, poem. The base layers here also includes wood glue burn, yellow india ink, and several clear coats of encaustic medium.

March 13, 2017

School’s out, which means my studio assistant is on hand to scrape back the layers. Always happy to let the kid loose on my paintings. I consider this a good return on my investment.😉

Artist Statement

Art, Exhibition, Gallery, Narrative, Solo Series, Story, Works In Progress

Eliaichi Kimaro

WEATHERED & WORN
Solo show

20190430_160723-01

Of the 40+ paintings in my upcoming solo show, 25 are new and exhibiting for the first time.

Weathered and Worn will be part of West Seattle Art Walk in May and June.
The exhibit will be up through the month of June.

NORTHWEST ENCAUSTIC
7150 44th Ave SW., Seattle 98136
OPENING RECEPTION
MAY 9, 2019
6-9pm

ARTIST RECEPTION
JUNE 13, 2019
6-9pm

Artist Statement (excerpt)

…This body of work hangs together loosely.  To me, they are more about the process, the journey of becoming.  They evoke the layered narratives that we all carry—as individuals in this present moment, and as the embodiment of our ancestors’ stories spanning generations and continents.   They represent new directions I am taking as an artist — using mark-making, texture, cold wax medium and organic materials to tell a story.  Some of these pieces came into being fully-formed.  Some were labors of love, with 2 or 3 completely different paintings existing beneath the surface.

While I am excited to share these paintings in their current incarnations, some of them will be radically transformed – melted, scraped down, carved into, painted over—when they return to my studio.  But as a lover of process, I believe that even our work-in-progress selves deserve an occasional spotlight…to be seen, witnessed and considered in our current state of being…and becoming.

The Stories We Inherit

Art, Film, Installation, Origin story, Story, Works In Progress

Backstory:  Couple months ago, a friend invited me to create a piece for a project she’s working on about dimensional wax pieces. While most of my encaustic paintings are textured and could be considered “dimensional,” I really wanted to push myself to get off the wood panel and see what I could create in 3D space. She asked for a piece that reflected the themes of cultural inheritance and legacy I explored in my film, A Lot Like You.

This prompt reminded me that in April 2018, I pulled out the transcripts of family stories I collected for my film — and, with no clear end goal in mind, I started cutting up and inking the shredded transcripts…trusting that they would some day find their way into a piece…

4/17/18 – These interviews I transcribed with my family elders on Kilimanjaro were the heart of my film. Even on the page, my Aunts’ stories are arresting. Now these transcripts will form the foundation of my next piece…

 

4/20/18 – As an encaustic artist, it’s rare that I can work on an art piece outside my studio. so I’m relishing being able to ink the shredded paper wherever I please. Especially on a day like today when I’m feeling pretty lousy, I can binge watch Theaster Gates & Andy Goldsworthy docs while reclining on our sofa, wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping coffee.

 

4/20/18 – End of Day 3…inking each piece by hand is a slow and meditative process. 7 hours straight today. Time to switch gears and walk the dog!

 

FAST FORWARD TO 2019…

2/14/19 – …and now, for something completely different!! Spent the past 2hrs cleaning the studio, getting ready to work with encaustic, paper, wire and fabric. Won’t have anything finished to show for the next few weeks…but i’ll be posting detail shots of this piece in progress. (just for the record, i have Absolutely No Idea where this is going. i’m just committing to experimenting with 3D play.) 🙂

 

 

2/14/19 – The motif of yesterday’s painting of chain links takes root as I finally find a use for the shredded transcripts of family interviews that I inked last year.  While I don’t have much experience constructing dimensional pieces–I do remember making paper chains in grade school…

 

2/15/19 – Spending all day making encaustic paper chains out of shredded family transcripts. 5hrs down, 4hrs to go…

 

2/21/19 – I started the day making strands of orange & red, but then decided to limit my palette to colors of the Tanzanian flag — fitting since these paper chains are made from shredded transcripts of interviews with the Tanzanian side of my family. So now I’m focusing my efforts on blues, greens, yellows. Onward!

 

2/25/19 – All day, today & tomorrow, I’ll be 1) coating transcript strips with encaustic medium on the hot plate to 2) make links, then 3) gluing them into chains. Podcast playlist is packed, headphones are fully charged. Here we go…♡

3/1/19 – Much gratitude and love to my friend Connie for coming over this morning to help me create an alginate mold of my face.

 

3/1/19 – Been obsessively scraping and cleaning up this piece with my pottery & dental tools for 4 hours straight. SO satisfying! But it’s time to step away, and return with fresh eyes tomorrow to check out my handiwork in the light of day…

 

3/4/19 – As I experiment with making an encaustic cast of my face, I’m struck by how much the wax-filled mold looks like an oyster shell…🌊

 

3/5/19 – Turned out, and cleaned up, the encaustic cast of my face. The verdict is still out re: how I feel about it. It’s getting a bit weird (and eerie), having disembodied faces on my work table. Here’s hoping I can turn them into something beautiful!

 

I made this short video about the “source material” for these paper chains – shredded transcripts of the family stories I gathered while filming on Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2003.

 

3/19/19 – Working on the bottom half of my dimensional encaustic piece today — arranging the wax/paper chain in (what I hope will be) an ascending spiral!🤞🏽

 

3/26/19 – Spending the day weaving twigs to form the interior walls of the Chagga hut that will surround the wax mask…♡ Wood up top, paper below.

 

3/28/19 – Yesterday was a “2steps forward/1step back” kind of day. This is the challenge and the thrill of #LearningByDoing . Even tho I had to undo a lot of my work, no effort was lost. Each go-around leaves a trace of story that will be seen and felt in the final piece. Every turn is worth the effort.

 

3/28/2019 – #TBT2004 to filming in my father’s Chagga hut on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Fast forward 15 years, different medium, same story (exploring my cultural inheritance and legacy). Spent today finishing the woodwork that, for me, is reminiscent of the interior of our hut.♡

 

3/29/19 – The Stories We Inherit (72″x 12″x 11″) – Wax, wood, wire, and paper. Calling this piece done…for now…at least in its current iteration. You know how it goes.