Distinction Gallery presents “In the Garden”, a solo exhibition featuring June Stratton‘s fifteen most recent works. June is known for her highly-detailed ethereal oil paintings. Her pieces are the idealized representations of nature and beauty, as well as the representations of the emotional impressions of her dreams. Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with her about her work, her life, her perspective about art, and more.
June Stratton: In the Garden
Saturday, April 8, 2017 | 6– 10 PM
April 8- May 6, 2017
317 E Grand Ave | Escondido CA 92025
(Above) “Floodplain” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 40 x 30 inches, Framed to 31.25 x 41.25 inches
Would you tell us some things about yourself? (Please include a few little known facts about yourself as well)
I was conceived in the Territory of Hawaii and was born in the State of Hawaii … I have no clue where my birth certificate is ; -). I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. I was fortunate that my family valued the arts of all kinds.
I remember as a kid sitting on my grandmother’s floor in Berkeley, paper and pencil in hand (no coloring books allowed), drawing birds in a very childlike automatic way… think two eyebrows and a dot in the middle. My Grandmother, who was an avid bird watcher (Sierra Club supporter), plopped down an Audubon’s Book of Birds and said, “you need to look at birds”. A bit harsh for a six-year-old but I never forgot it. All I ever wanted to be was an artist. When I went to California College of Arts and Crafts in 1977, I was 17. I was probably a little young and because the curriculum was skewed more towards abstraction, I was very unhappy. Also, I’ve never been very good at structured learning because I am very dyslexic. I felt lost and depressed in the following years.
Little known facts: I love fast and pretty automobiles, vintage to current day. I’m also allergic to oysters … it’s sad because I like them : ). I love to cook and experiment with different recipes.
How did you break into the industry?
I moved to Seattle in the 1980’s and was lucky to be introduced to some very talented artists who were making a living making art. Seattle had a bustling art community at the time and a thriving first Thursday art walk. I must credit my first husband and talented master printmaker/painter Kent Lovelace. He owned Stone Press Gallery. Stone Press was also a printmaking atelier. Not only did he encourage me to pursue my art career but also Stone Press was a preeminent printmaking atelier that always had a variety of talented artists walking through the door. Stone Press pulled prints from everyone from Jacob Lawrence to Robert Bateman* in the 1980’s. I’ve been reflecting on the works of Fred Wessel a lot lately. He is a representational artist that incorporated metal leaf and still creates beautiful egg tempera metal leaf paintings today.
*A brilliant realist artist who could draw or paint with any material you could throw at him. Unfortunately, because of the times he was marginalized as primarily a wildlife artist.
(Above) “Stargazer” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 12 x 12 inches, Framed to 13 x 13 inches
(Above) “Beach Dreams” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Arches Paper Mounted to Archival Panel, 12 x 12 inches, Framed to 13 x 13 inches
How would you describe your first 5 years as an artist?
A bit crazy. Although, I was surrounded by artists; It’s one thing to say “Yeah, I can do that…” and quite another to manifest it. My first paintings were landscapes. My first landscapes painted in oil were painted entirely reductively (like Mark Tansey) because I had no experience with oil and only watercolor. I did not know anyone using oil medium at the time. Those first oil paintings were part of my first solo show in downtown Seattle…I do not think the gallery was aware they were my first. They sold them anyhow.
What are the things you wished you’d known from the very start of your career?
As Robert Lange (artist/gallery owner) described in a conversation to me recently, “An artist’s life is a journey,”
You’re not going to suddenly get the secret or trick to painting and create masterpieces from then on. It’s a lot of continuous really hard work and learning.
(Above) “Hammock” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 36 x 48 inches, Framed to 37.25 x 49.25 inches
Art means different things to different people. What is art, and what does art means to you?
Personally, it’s an obsessive focus in my life. For me it was a great way to channel my mind and see past my own insecurities, which are many. In the bigger picture, it’s an interpretive, insightful language. It’s a way to express views that are not easily understood any other way.
What qualities/traits/habits/mindsets do you think every artist need to have?
Perseverance. Creative problem solving. Cultivate an environment around you to open your mind to learn. Collect art books. Go to as many museums as you can. Identify yourself as an artist. I’m trying hard to keep my own personal imagination up front in my paintings. There are so many outrageously great artists out there. I feel the only way to set myself apart is to fully expose my individual imaginary self.
(Above) “Parhelion” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 24 x 24 inches, Framed to 25.25 x 25.25 inches
(Above) “Blind Attraction” (2016), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 12 x 12 inches, Framed to 15 x 15 inches
What’s your typical week’s like?
I spend at least 5 days a week in the studio, which is on the same property as me and my husband Jay’s house. I’m very spoiled this way. When I’m working on a show, some days, I barely make it past the mailbox. When the weather is warm though we’ll go out to one of many barrier islands off coastal Georgia, which has a lot of protected coastline, marshlands and estuaries. Much of my inspiration, aside from my models, comes from this rich environment. We have a variety of good “foodie” buddies that are a nice respite and are good at keeping me grounded. Nothing like good glass of wine and conversation. : )
How do you typically approach each new project? Would you share your working process from start to finish?
I start from an idea I have in my head (often from vivid dreams I’ve had) then find the appropriate model and collaborate with them. I take hundreds of photos and sometimes my initial idea evolves into something completely different once I see what’s happening with the model. Later in my studio, I create a photo mockup complete with the surrealistic elements like clouds, water and nature that are my coastal environment. Using this Photoshop mockup as a guide, I go to my easel and block in the composition with paint. To be clear, some things that looks great on my “glowing from behind” computer screen do not translate well as a painting, so adjustments need to be made while painting. I add silver leaf only when the previous layer’s underneath have dried. What follow is multiple layers of paint and many more adjustments. I finish with varnish, which brings out very rich color.
(Above) “Seahorse Sound” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Arches Paper Mounted to Archival Panel, 36 x 48 inches, Framed to 37.25 x 49.25 inches
(Above) “One Horse Opera”
What is your current “dream project”?
Hum…I guess my flip answer would be whatever I’m working now. I love what I do.
I had a vision at one point in 2007 after I saw a Julie Heffernan show in New York. I was going to paint a series of six women on horseback performing. Each piece was going to be 72×60 vertical. I painted “One Horse Opera”, which turned out to be a series of one thanks to the crash in the financial market and “One Horse Opera” now lives in my dining room. Oh well, maybe my posse will ride in the future. Not sure where this horsey thing comes from. Maybe from when I rode horses as a kid or just admiring old master paintings but, when I’m asked to go to my happy place, it’s not the beach it’s galloping along the ridge of a hillside…free.
What aspect of your work do you pay particular attention to?
Recently I’ve been obsessive about my surface and my edges. For some reason, I’m randomly thinking of Marc Chagall’s compositions when I paint. Maybe it’s the floaty effect I’m painting my models in.
Is there anything your viewer might miss when we look at your artwork? (Any hidden meanings, symbolisms, special details, etc?)
I’m including a small symbol or two. Oysters. Mollusks are indicator species for the environment. Also, lichen. Not so subtle is water rise. Someone once told me beauty without edge is insipid. That might be going too far for me. I like something that causes visual tension. I like having a message but I do not want to beat anyone over the head with it. I want the viewer to like what they are looking at and I want them to wish to live with it.
(Above) “Down the Garden Path” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Arches Paper Mounted to Archival Panel, 24 x 24 inches, Framed to 25.25 x 25.25 inches
How do you choose your models?
I’ve been working with twins that are the daughters of friends (also clients of mine) Sarah and Nelle Iocovozzi. They tolerate me making them lay on the cold brick winter courtyard or riding a horse in the hot August sun. Generally, I like my figures to be both vulnerable and strong at the same time. They do this very well. I’ve worked with several great models in Savannah and I’ve been very lucky. None modeled more frequently than Meghan Harris. She’s featured in “One Horse Opera”
In a pinch, I’ve used myself.
Out of all the pieces you created for this exhibition, which piece is the most special/favorite piece for you? (And why)
Geez…only one? There are three. What they all have in common is they express the beauty I want to see and a subtle message on climate change. “Seahorse Sound” (Sound as in body of water), “Floodplain”, “Hammock” (Hammock as in coastal/salt marsh island).
What else are you working on at the moment?
Solo show for Robert Lange Gallery, Charleston in August. Also, fun tiny project the “Tiny House Project” benefiting Savannah Authority for the Homeless veterans. All the artists participating in this art auction receive houses that are the same dimensions (about a foot high) and the surface prepared with primer. Each artist gets to choose to work on either side of the house shaped panel. I am still envisioning what I’ll put in my tiny house.
(Above) “Terre Verte” (2017), Oil and Silver Leaf on Aluminum, 36 x 36 inches, Framed to 38.5 x 38.5 inches