At Hollingsworth: The Clothesline ProjectApril 11, 2012by Brian McMillan, Managing Editor
Among the clothesline paintings installed at Hollingsworth Gallery, in preparation for Christine Sullivan’s debut solo oil painting show, there is one portrait — a self portrait of the artist as a young woman.
The painting is based on a photograph Sullivan found in her parents’ home in Cape Cod. They lived there for 26 years, and when her parents had to move into an assisted living facility, Sullivan spent 27 days cleaning the home out and deciding what to keep, what to sell, what to discard.
In the basement, under the stairs, buried under LIFE Magazine covers about the moon landing, she found a box of slides of old family photos, including one of herself.
She had been in an intensive reawakening process as an artist at the time, completing 30 paintings in six months after her 25-year career in the cable TV world. (She left her position as senior vice president of marketing for the Golf Channel, in 2009, in part to pursue her art.)
“I think we all want to connect back to who we really are, and lot of that comes back to how we were raised,” Sullivan said, as she stood in front of an installation of clotheslines for the show at the gallery, small fans fluttering white strips of sheets. “It was an indulgent moment to go back and see what it felt like to be that girl,” she said.
The colors of the portrait, which you can see for yourself at the show’s opening 6-9 p.m. April 14, at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite 209 and 210B, are the same colors Sullivan uses in her landscapes of clothesline scenes: yellow ocher, sap green, red barn. She grew up in the Cape Cod area, surrounded by barns and coastal scenes.
The paintings are richly textured, sometimes with knifefuls of oil paint and other times with what remains after scraping away multiple layers of paint.
“Each painting has its history,” she said. “You build up from one layer to another. It’s almost like cutting through a tree. There are rings in there. There are qualities of that underpainting, and one is not necessarily winning over the other.”
Her emphasis on texture is reminiscent of Curator J.J. Graham’s work. Sullivan calls Graham her teacher; Graham calls himself her coach who oversaw her “birth” as an artist.
“What I see is someone who buried herself in the studio and got something back,” he said. “As children, we have these things that we know and we love and we want to do, and they kind of get taken away from us, and there’s part of us that’s wounded. So to be able to go back there and put it together again in the studio, it’s magical. That’s what fuels her and makes her want to paint.”
Sullivan was awarded an artist’s residency at Elmira, N.Y., where she began exploring and creating her clothesline project. She drove from town to town, taking photographs of clotheslines and was captivated by the intimacy she could feel with the people who had put their clothes out to dry. One yard had tennis balls in the grass and children’s clothes on the line. Another had a black sports bra, and she painted the scene, which is titled, “Born to Run.”
One of the most arresting clothesline paintings in the show is mostly black and white, but with one article of clothing painted bright red. It’s called “The Cardinal.”
“This is so much more than a clothesline for me,” Sullivan said. Her childhood best friend’s mother encouraged Sullivan to be creative, and it was a turning point for her. The friend’s mother died young, however.
Sullivan painted one of the articles on the clothesline red to represent the cardinals that she saw, in honor of her friend’s mother.
“I miss her every day,” Sullivan said. “Every time I feel like I need a lift or … those days when you just need to go take a walk, you see these cardinals, this red in this landscape, and it’s like they’re talking to me. I feel a big connection to her with the cardinals. Everything was white, and it was like she was talking to me.”
“She would be so happy and so proud right now,” she said.
Graham is also pleased with Sullivan’s progress as an artist, as well as with the final product of her debut show. He said he and others worked to hang the paintings in the gallery last week.
“When I got everything up, I just sat here forever,” he said. “I couldn’t leave.”
CHRISTINE SULLIVAN: THE CLOTHESLINE PROJECT
A SOLO EXHIBITION OF NEW & SELECTED WORKS
Saturday, April 14 6 - 9 PM
2nd Level of City Marketplace at Palm Coast
160 Cypress Point Parkway
Palm Coast, FL 32164