Artist Ellen Hathaway presents a stunning collection of abstracted floral paintings inspired by life transformations. See more of her artwork on her website.
There was a time I considered painting my hobby, like playing tennis. By definition, a hobby is engagement in activity for recreation. At the age of 40, I was on the tennis court the morning of 9/11/2001. By the end of that day, as the Twin Towers had crashed to the ground, I experienced an abrupt shift in my outlook on life. It’s fragility and preciousness amplified. I reflected on my life. Were there things left undone? Commit to painting.
I paint expressively. The content of my work comes from an interior place. You’ll see fragments of nature-inspired imagery coming into and out of being with an emphasis on my materials. Like a conversation weaving together passages of diverse media—polymer, pencil, pastel, oil, charcoal—each offers its own presence.
Adding gestures, or scraping paint away, I want you to see glops, splatters, drips, and know someone’s hand made this. It’s about relationship. Not only of materials, but for us standing before it.
Working responsively, and without a clear plan, each painting evolves in ways unimagined. But there’s a latent fear: the creative well goes dry making my last satisfying work “the end.”
Then the next painting unfolds. My faith is strengthened. Just by showing up to engage with the materials, something more comes to life that I didn’t expect, plan, or force into being. An epiphany: my desire to commit to painting was an intuitive search for renewal of mind, body, spirit. Like embodied prayer, I sense God speaking to me through the process.
It’s not about recreation. It’s about re-creation. My practice and paintings are allegories for life’s endings transforming into new beginnings. I’ve experienced the sacred beauty and mystery of this rhythm through the years. Loved ones die; babies are born; the memories from seasons past morph into fertile seeds bursting into glorious blooms of hope at just the appointed times.
Long interested in Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen’s notion that hospitality begets new life, I relate this to painting. Both act and artifact become spaces for the generous reception of guests. At different times maker and looker are each guests invited to experience the energy, physicality and expressiveness of the work. Memories are aroused, imaginations stimulated, hope envisioned.
By attending to the object in front of us, we journey to places within we’d forgotten, ignored, or hadn’t noticed. This is fertile ground for making us more sensitive to the world beyond.
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