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 guess I don’t think of myself in that way. I like surrealism, and often get my ideas from dreams, but I think I’m more of an uncooperative realist.
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, 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, indie-culture artists and styles which still influence me.
A Chicago school of artists, the Imagists, were playing with many of the same inspirations from which I was building my own creative context. I took their name and changed it to “Imaginist,” using the label as a reference, but not a mirror.
My paintings are imaginative and narrative, containing random dream-like elements. The word “Imaginist” captures the colorful, iconic, surrealist, figurative, symbolist, pop-cultural, contemporary and narrative territory my paintings and inspirations inhabit, without adopting the conventions or definitions of an established movement.
If you relate to my definition in regards to your own work, feel free to use the hashtag #imaginistart for your own posts. We will be the movement.
Title photo: Feejee Mermaid, 30″ x 24″ oil on canvas, 2014, Sarah Stone