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The Night Watch, Oil on Canvas 35 " x 50.5 " 2021
The Night Watch, Oil on Canvas 35"x50.5", 2021

Monica Lynn James

Feb. 14-March 18

Whidbey Island-based artist and educator Monica Lynn James combines abstract expressionism with cultural and historic narrative. The exhibition features a series of paintings and mixed media collages full of color and light. Like music, color resonates in pitch and vibration and evolves into a story rich with metaphor and meaning.

This series of paintings revolves around abstraction and narrative. It is like an axis, which by definition is a pivot point, and describes the synthesis that occurs in my creative process. The spark of inspiration for this series of paintings and mixed media collage is color, music, and symbolism. I struggle to leave the real world behind and remain immersed in abstraction, but certain narratives come back again and again, like coming full circle.

My history is rooted in the history of Indigenous Americans and the transatlantic slave trade. The recent forest fires in California threatening the ancient Sequoia called my attention to the Indigenous people who once stood watch as stewards of that land. I wanted to find out more and wondered if the forest would be burning if they had maintained sovereignty. The works on canvas are a record of this journey, like footsteps in the sand. My role as an artist is not always to compose and lead. But instead, to act as an active listener, following my intuition and allowing the paint to lead the way.

Circles have always drawn me in, and I am obsessed with the myth and metaphor intrinsic to this simple and complex shape. In 1930 Wassily Kandinsky recognized that "The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions" The circle is both concave and convex. It contains the elements of line, shape, movement, and more. Kandinsky wrote passionately about color, music, synesthesia, and the universal meanings behind shapes and the elements of art. His work has always been an inspiration. For me, this shape became a vessel to fill with color, light, and even symbolism.

Through color and shape, I aspire to depict light. I want to infuse the canvas with a glow akin to the warm twinkle of electric lights illuminating the urban landscape like earthly stars. Light represents both the enlightenment of opening an illuminated book or the glaring spotlight of a squad car. I'm drawn to the light like a moth to a flame seeking truth, wisdom, and peace and the same universal symbols that fascinated Kandinsky. Like the light coming through painted glass windows, color mixed with light is transformative and healing. I hope that the work connects the viewer to another place and time filled with light and hope, a visual transformation.

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