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January 22 - February 21, 2016

Fire And Water - the forces of change along Bottom Creek

Genesis Chapman

Drawing and Painting
Helena Davis Gallery

Opening Reception for the Artists
Fourth Friday, January 22, 2016
7:00-10:00 pm

Free and Open to the Public

Closing Artist Talk
Sunday, February 21, 2016
2:00 pm

Free and Open to the Public

Artist Statement

My art aims to examine and investigate Bent Mountain, Virginia, which is the place I grew up, and a place I deeply love. As a small rural community in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bent Mountain is known for its natural beauty. I want my art to show the respect and love I have for nature and to highlight the changes, which have occurred to this place during my life time. These changes, (some natural and gradual, some, accelerated by technology) have left me with a deep sense of loss.

Through drawing and painting, I intimately describe Bent Mountain. Through meticulous marking, I distill my emotions, observations, ideas and experience to make sense of the changes that have occurred while attempting to preserve its fundamental essence for the future generations. I record the changing dynamics of the mountain in a historical, geological, and personal scale of time.

To do so, I investigate the genus loci, or spirit of this place. Historically, this spirit is often represented as a mythological creature such as a nymph or satyr. However, I choose to represent the genus loci of Bent Mountain in a more tangible form; as a natural force that existed before me, before the mountain, or before life itself. To me, this is embodied in the most basic elements of the land, and the processes that shape the landscape; the actions of weather, air, water, stones and rocks. While these forces act in concert to form the mountain, water is the most important, element to me.

Not only is it the most dynamic and life-like, it is most primal element of life. Water is where life begins, it determines if an environment is habitable, and what organisms can exist. It is only by its continued presence that our own existence is assured. It also has the power to erode mountains and change the terrain of every facet of our planet.

I think that this creative and destructive power is embodied in the insignificant creek I choose to draw. The subtle flow of its water, moving across the land contains "the spirit" of my mountain. In my drawings, I depict "the spirit" through the water's action. Stripping out most of the landscape allows me to concentrate on the movements, currents, and flow of the water rather than the effects of light, color or surface reflections.

The use of black and white India ink is important because of its directness and simplicity. It is the drawing media I take with me when I walk and hike and what I use exclusively when I draw the creek from direct. Through the inks infinite shades of gray to black, I focus my brushwork on the patterns across the surface of the water. Metaphorically and literally, water carries the ink across the paper and evaporates to leave a sedimentary. The improvisational nature of the spontaneous mark empowers me as an artist as who acutely observes nature. While part of me that wants to describe the creek with scientific precision, I challenge myself to let go of a perfectly realistic rendering, to open up and pay attention to the spontaneity of my process. Consequently, through the drawing I experience the water's dynamic movement and flow. Instead of literally depicting the water I describe its action and energy with obsessive marks that range from large spontaneous gestures to intricate detailed meditations.

I choose to depict the landscape as a white featureless void, rather than yet another romanticized version of the mountains. The trees, plants, animals, soil, rocks, light, sun, and reflections are present in their glaring and painful absence. This hollowness is further emphasized in the spontaneous shapes and voids the creek creates. While emphasizing what may disappear or is lost, this depiction also questions the transitional aspect of what we really see or experience in nature. These questions are most relevant to the landscape of my childhood, and the place with which I most identify: the Appalachian Mountains. The past hundred years of settlement have also left these mountains a ghost of their former selves. This region its land and culture ignored, minimized, stereotyped and looked on as insignificant has cleared the path for outsiders to harvest the natural resources. The Appalachians are manipulated for their minerals, coal, timber, wind, water, and open land. Even as I walk on the ridges overlooking the valley, I see suburbs and development encroaching my home, diminishing its wildness, diversity, natural beauty and sense of individuality, in favor of the homogenized culture of suburbanized America.

Ultimately, I wonder and ask - what does it mean to love and identify with a place, to call it home, and to watch it change? Bent Mountain whether I like it or not, is going to change. Even this small insignificant creek is an agent of change, which trickles down from the spring outside my bedroom window taking with it the sediments, soil, stones, bones, ashes and memories.


Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond VA
M.F.A. Painting and Printmaking, May 2010

Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO
B.F.A. Painting and Printmaking, June 2001
Graduated Cum Laude

Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke, VA
1989 - 1996

More at: Genesis Chapman

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