I was recently asked by a curator why I call myself an “Imaginist” artist. She asked, “Isn’t all art Imaginist?”
I assembled the word from the names of a couple of art genres, including the loose group of Chicago artists in the 60’s and 70’s known as the “Imagists.” You could argue that all art is Imagist, too.
I am inspired by the paintings of Les Nabis, an art group from the late 19th century which included two of my favorite artists, Paul Gaugin and Felix Vallotton. They rejected realism in favor of symbolism, metaphor and personal interpretation, using strong color and flat, simplified forms. In this painting by Vallotton the patterns of the room are surrounding the woman, approaching and filling her space, as the words of the book she is reading are filling her attention.
Other artists that inspire me are the Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, German artists of the early 20th century who took figures and colors to another level, adding dark socio-political themes. Otto Dix is one of my favorite painters from this group. I love the feeling of calm menace in this portrait of a man and his dog.
As a young artist, I learned most of my art skills by copying the artists I saw in books. I copied the styles of Matisse, Van Gogh and Felix Vallotton, as well as children’s book artists like Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen. I also had a trove of Zap, Yellow Dog, Mr. Natural, Wonder Warthog, The Freak Bros. and Mickey Rat underground comix from which I learned line art (and raw, dark humor.)
The Chicago Imagists were playing with inspirations from earlier figurative/narrative artists as well as pop culture art, surrealist art and underground art, many of the same references from which I was building my own creative context.
Another LA curator said she considered me a ‘Female Surrealist.’ I chafe at the description of a “female” anything, as if gender creates a sub-category. But, my paintings do incorporate the surrealist juxtaposition of incongruous elements in a similar manner as the works of Leonora Carrington, Freda Khalo and Dorothea Tanning. I love those artists and draw a lot of inspiration from them (see Deer Maiden.)
My artworks are also imaginative and narrative. I imagine the scenes in my paintings, often with a subtext of something about to happen, or that seems to have just happened. Combining the inspiration of the Imagists with the descriptive genres of Surrealist, Imaginative and Narrative, I decided to call my artwork “Imaginist” which is inclusive of the colorful, iconic, surrealist, figurative, symbolist, pop-cultural, contemporary and narrative territory my paintings and inspirations inhabit.
Title photo: Feejee Mermaid, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas, 2014, Sarah Stone