Matisse and I

Sorrows of the King
Henri Matisse
Fall of Icarus
Henri Matisse
As an Art History major at Wellesley, I vividly recall the Matisse cut-out collages I saw projected on the lecture hall screen.  To me, Sorrows of the King was a breath of fresh air in the way its colors are juxtaposed, and its playful composition seems to belie the emotion suggested by the title.  In Fall of Icarus, the spareness of line, and use of negative space were highlighted. And of course, we discussed Matisse's use of vibrant, pure colors which evoke an emotional response from the viewer, and seem to jump from the page.
Little did I know back then, those images would stay with me and would inspire, however unconsciously, my current work. 

A word about inspiration:  when I'm asked about what inspires my work, I cite the colors, patterns and symbols of African art, the natural world, and the work of other artists.  These are the things I consciously study or immerse myself in, to generate ideas.  Everything swirls around in my brain, and emerges in various ways.  I could just as easily say that everything I see, or have ever seen inspires me in some way.  I believe all artists are inspired by what we see, every day.  How what we see and internalize gets communicated onto our substrate of choice is the essence of art.   

Matisse making paper cut outs
Last year, I began working with paper cut outs on mirrors and wall hangings, by first painting papers with acrylics, using washes and some texturing, then cutting shapes by hand and positioning them to create collage compositions.  Without being consciously aware of it, (and without the aid of studio assistants!) I was echoing Matisse's way of creating his (even to the messy pile of "scraps" on the floor!):

 "With the aid of his assistants, Matisse invented a systematic approach to the technique of his cut outs. First, his studio assistants brushed Linel gouaches on sheets of white paper. Once dry, a stockpile of colored paper was available to Matisse at any given time. He often quite spontaneously cut out elements and placed them into compositions. As the play between consciously sought-for and the fortuitously-arrived at effects worked into their balances the projects moved toward completion...Matisse generally cut the shapes out freehand, using a small pair of scissors and saving both the item cut out and remaining scraps of paper....he would arrange and rearrange the colored cutouts until he was completely satisfied (with) the results." ~from Paper Cuts Outs (gouaches découpés)
Here are some of my cut paper collage creations, and some by Matisse: 

Small Worlds 8
Michelle Davis Petelinz

Sun Worshipers
Mini Magnet
Michelle Davis Petelinz

The Beasts of the Sea
Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse
Kaleidoscope, Free Spirit Series
Michelle Davis Petelinz
 When I look at them side by side, I'm struck by the similarities in color combinations, and shapes. 

The spiral is a central theme of my work--the unending circle of life. 

And, my adaptation of the Adinkra symbol of  Bi Nka Bi (peace and harmony, literally: no one should bite the other) became the floral shape I use quite often.
Bi Nka Bi
My sources of inspiration, both conscious and unconscious inform, guide and shape my work...

I wonder where they'll take me next? 


Jeanne Rhea said…
Great post and I can easily see where you could have been inspired by Matisse's work. Your work though is you and is different---but it has to feel good to know that others can see Matisse's influence in your work.

I agree! Artists are influenced or inspired by everything we see and do.

P.S. Your mirror is on the way to Alaska. It was hard to let go, but I do love Kaleidoscope shown in this post!
Michelle said…
Isn't it interesting how and where inspirations show up in our work?

I hope Allan likes the mirror once it arrives!

I know you love Kaleidoscope--it's waiting to go to a new Sanford, perhaps?! :-)
Penny A said…
Fabulous! I was not familiar with his process, or the more botanical works. Seeing your works side by side, it is amazing how similar and different they are. Your compositions seem much more vibrant, to me!
Michelle said…
Thanks, Penny! I love Matisse's use of negative space in many of his cut out works...I don't seem to be able to leave much in my own, but that's not a bad thing.