I see the world in terms of a balance between cosmos and chaos. Painting for me is the process of continually seeking, and attempting to work out, that balance.
The landscape environments I have lived and worked in have engaged me deeply my entire life. My early years were spent living in a semi-rural setting adjacent to a golf course. My strongest memories of that time are of viewing the manicured, park-like course juxtaposed with the natural, uncultivated land surrounding it. Now, I live in southern Utah in fairly remote desert country where I enjoy the dry, clean air, clear starry nights, and the presence of strong landscape elements. I love the trees, rocks, and sky that surround me here.
In my paintings I attempt to balance all elements into a harmonious whole by employing Greek orthogons (The mathematical formulas developed by the Greeks for use in building, sculpture, paintings, etc. were found to elicit strong emotional response). I also use “Dynamic Symmetry”, a method developed by Jay Hambridge in the 1920’s, in planning my paintings. Both the Greeks and Jay Hambridge depend heavily on the idea that cosmos (strict order) and chaos (complete disorder) ought to blend together into “wholeness”.
Another influence in my work is the theme of “homecoming” addressed in great epic literature such as The Odyssey and Pilgrim’s Progress. This is a home of the spirit and the heart, as well as a familiar physical place. I make use of various pictorial elements such as rivers, constellations, paths and fields, intending to suggest the idea of a remembered “home” or, the act of “journeying towards home”.
Sometimes I intend for the trees in my paintings, and other elements, to be metaphoric representations. However, I don’t feel it is necessary for viewers to “know” my personal symbols in order to feel that my work—if it is successful in blending chaos and cosmos into a beautiful whole—has a spiritual base. I would like others to feel peace and order when they view my work, and perhaps, a desire to “return home”.
Rebecca Wagstaff: Painting My Life
My paintings are kind of self-portraits in still-life. I don’t look for things to paint, but rather paint what becomes—usually over time—compelling and necessary for me to paint. I paint pottery I own and have lived with, “treasures” my daughters bring to me, fruit from my backyard (and my childhood), flowers, assorted poultry and weeds that grow in my yard, and objects I have picked up while walking out in the hills. Though my paintings are often formal in composition, and imply geometry, I don’t calculate my compositions, but paint intuitively. The elements in each painting are symbolic for me—basically, I paint my life. Or, in other words, the elements of my life reappear as elements in my paintings—and those elements, which often happen to have universal symbolic meaning—always have personal symbolic meaning.