I was recently asked by a curator why I call myself an “Imaginist” artist. She asked, “Isn’t all art Imaginist?”
I started to use the term as an alternative to surrealist, after another curator told me she thought of me as a “female surrealist.” I’m intrigued by the characteristics of surrealism, and often get my ideas from dreams, but the juxtapositions in my paintings are more about something passing between people in a given moment, or a feeling about something that has either just happened or is about to. And, sometimes, my art is about responding to color, pattern and space, and seeing what comes out of those three things.
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 illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Kay Nielsen. I also loved underground comix and had a collection of Zap, Yellow Dog, Mr. Natural, Wonder Warthog, The Freak Bros. and Mickey Rat, art styles which still subtly influence my work.
A Chicago school of artists, the Imagists, were playing with many of the same inspirations from which I was building my own creative context. The Imagist artists and their varied styles and influences are so inspiring, I took the name, but changed it a bit.
My paintings are imaginative and narrative, with random dream-like things in them. The word “Imaginist” seemed to capture the colorful, iconic, surrealist, figurative, symbolist, pop-cultural, contemporary and narrative territory my paintings and inspirations inhabit, without co-opting the conventions of any particular school.
Title photo: Feejee Mermaid, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas, 2014, Sarah Stone