Artist Counsel Langley shares a fascinating portfolio of highly detailed mixed media works inspired by life experiences. See more of her work on her website.
I come from a long line of people who built boats, sailed seas, and made do with what they had on hand. They used traditional skills to work wood and metal. They made beautiful things that had to function well, or would put lives in jeopardy.
I appreciate the high stakes they grappled with, their respect for materials, willingness to put in long hours of hard, physical work, and boundless notion of what is possible. I admire their adventurous spirit, and well-honed craft. When I work it is to fan that same spark within me. On that foundation rests my desire to make good work, and to continue to grow for as long as I live. Each day I aim to get a little better than the day before.
Largely due to their influence, I studied metalsmithing back at art school. That training impacted the way I approach painting and the unique techniques I’ve developed in my studio. Attention to detail, love for surface treatment/texture, and a willingness to stick with a problem until it gets solved are some of the ways I still approach artmaking like a metalsmith.
Certain imagery I’m drawn to appears in my work again and again. Science fiction and folktales, lost highways and streetlights, mountains and saltwater, outer space, and figures poised at the moment of crucial decision.
I also adore low-tech special effects—shadow puppet shows of childhood, optical illusions, stop-motion animation, animatronic movie monsters. Tricks that work with basic physics and neurology, that take real, mostly mundane, materials and elevates them to delight.
I played with this in my Distressed series. Using old boat boards worn by salt and sea, I “framed” them with a soft glow, like a halo. These were created by reflected fluorescent orange paint that coated the back side of the rough wood. I’ve returned to that love with my current work.
In a series called [ominous music playing], I draw on the 1980s movie magic of a particular genre I like to call “kids saving the day on dirt bikes.” Think E.T., War Games, The Lost Boys … In these pieces I’ve finally allowed myself to break out of the edges of the canvas and to work in low relief. This new work has a vigor to it. There’s an intense physicality to making it. At the best moments, it has elements that are cinematic and reminiscent of pre-digital animation techniques.
In the end, I am driven by an insatiable curiosity. I learn best by doing. My studio practice is full of action, discovery, and working in the company of loud music. Like paths through woods, my work unfolds in series, down which I explore different stories and approaches.
Underneath it all, my work is tied together by a desire to find a balance between order and chaos.
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