Statement by the Artist

1967 Eleanor Trutton Gallery exhibit

From earliest years my art has involved drawings of emotional expressions of people in all aspects of life, often dealing with unpopular and unlikely subjects, techniques and methods.

Redefining drawing in the 1950’s and 1960’s from the usual small, intimate works on paper, I progressed to huge images in unconventional materials (48 feet high on plastics or drawn from a sky-writing airplane.) Drawing completely unheroic forms on a heroic scale interested me – or drawing the tenderness of aging lovers, or drawing using shadows through lucite, with paper pulp alone, in scrimshaw or using Old Master techniques, making my own inks or pastels.

From 1967 to 1985 I worked intensely with the Fundamentalist religious people of the lower Appalachian Mountains. Without necessarily subscribing to their beliefs, I honor these people and try to fairly show their feelings. First drawing on large papers, in 1977 I began painting them on various velvets when challenged by their assumption that since I was an artist I painted on black velvet. I found the black velvet to be the perfect union of form and subject. The darkness duplicated the intense blackness of nights in the fields and mountains; portions of extreme light were such as seen with 40 watt lights bulbs strung in the tents. This recapitulated the violent extremes shown in the intensely charged epic struggles against the devil and toward the light of God. Exhibits of these works included videos and their environments so viewers might feel what the Pentecostals felt.

I turned to drawing these religious beliefs and fears of the world ending soon in “The Mark of the Beast” series. Some expect a nuclear ending to the world, some fear pestilence, others overpopulation, the “Harmonic Convergence,” or the Mayan End of Times (2012) – and Christians expect Jesus to return to Earth at any hour. These works led to the “Crucifixion” series: huge psychological portraits of suffering figures limned in pastel on velvet; intense images of emerging praise shown through the cruciform shapes.

Currently my work is with large portraits or figure drawings in pastel, often using pets or objects important in the lives of my subjects. Following the comment of Wittgenstein that “the human body is the best image of the human soul” my intent is to become the woman or man I draw, to depict their soul as I take on the subject’s pain or rapture. My most recent paintings are a nine foot high pregnant Dark Madonna and an agonized man at Abu Ghraib, continuing explorations of the intense moments of human existence.

© Eleanor Dickinson 2010

1954 Eleanor Dickinson drawing Gold Canyon Arizona