|"Ink Wash Siren"
by Nancy Warren © 1992
Click image to enlarge
I was born near Hollywood, California,
and grew up with a pencil in my hand.Fascinated by trees from the
age of seven, when my family moved out of the city to an oak-filled
woodland area, I drew various tree forms in early childhood, concentrating
mostly on gnarly trunks and rambling roots. In my teen years, exposure
to book illustrations and my mother's portfolio from her art school
days (she was a graphic artist) influenced a direction toward figurative
work. My interest in myth came about through a chance encounter
when I was a teenager. A college friend left his mythology book
on a car seat. While I waited for him to finish class I started
reading. From that moment on, I was enthralled.
For many years, I had lazy days in
the sun and called the beaches and the hills of southern California
home. This languorous life is recalled in "Ariadne and Minotaur,"
shown as a representation of brother and sister before the Labyrinth
was successfully navigated and the Minotaur was slain.
Sailing was a big part of my life
at that time. I competed in single-handed races and crewed on large
and small boats. My love for the sea exposed me, on a regular basis,
to the Herculean efforts and heroism encountered in the world of
boats. A connection to the heroic is represented in "Trojan War."
In 1992, I traveled with a group of
watercolorists to the Cycladic Islands. When the group returned
to the United States, I stayed on to acquaint myself with Athens,
the Peloponnesus, and Santorini. My goal was to pick up as much
visual history as I could absorb from the great and small museums.
Black and red figure painting appeared to be the ideal source of
information. The energy apparent in Greek painting and the mythological
characters influenced my rendition of "Jason and Medea."
The day I spent at Eleusis will stay
with me for a long time. The small, out of the way archeological
site and its little museum were uninhabited except for the tiny
staff, myself, and a friend. As luck would have it, I found a carving
of the swiftest mortal, Atalanta, on an ornate marble sarcophagus
outside the museum. Our family boat had proudly borne her name.
Atalanta was one of the crew on Jason's ship Argo when it sailed
off to search for the golden fleece. On the sarcophagus, she is
pictured as a member of the Caledonian boar hunting party. It was
a wonderful day. I sketched a lot. Time melted and disappeared.
As if to symbolize the glory and fertility of Eleusis's patron goddess
Demeter and her cult of the mysteries, an old apricot tree near
the entrance gate bore so much fruit the ground was littered with,
what surely must have been, the most glorious tasting apricots in
the world. We gobbled them up.
A figure usually ignored or represented
out of character by our culture is the Siren. Sirens are not commonly
found on the vases or in the art books I have encountered in the
U.S. In fact, they are very difficult to find here. Not so to the
Greeks. How important they must have been in ancient times. The
profuse number and variety of siren images, painted over hundreds
of years, found on pottery shards, pots, and marble sculptures was
almost overwhelming. Inspired by a funerary monument installed at
the Athens' archeological museum is the little drawing "Ink Wash
Upon my return to the Bay Area in
1992, I immediately began working with mythic themes; the first
painting after Greece, a siren. My work is still intuitive and formed
out of personal experience. I see the stories and characters in
modern light: a bit of content or a character is pulled from the
past and placed in the present; there may be a time switch with
a contemporary character slipping into the past; or time may simply
stand still as in "Orpheus, Al and Me." Personalities of subjects
are emphasized. I look into their eyes, discovering parallels between
contemporary human values and those of ancient Greece. As my paintings
develop, time and emotions between present and past become intermingled.
I continue adding new paintings and monotype prints to this body
of work, finding joy and excitement in the process.
I now live in Dry Creek Valley, a
wine-growing region north of San Francisco. There is magic in the
night sky here during a full moon, and when the six-inch Luna moth
breaks from its silken cocoon and beats its eye-spotted wings on
my lighted windows. "Moonlight in the Vineyard" is the result of
My painting studio and home are linked
by a path through fir and oak trees. Along this trail, year after
year in spring and summer, nesting hawks and ravens argue overhead.
In spite of this, it is a place of quiet inspiration, a place where
wood nymphs, I'm sure, abound.
I am presently working toward a Master
of Fine Arts degree at Johnson State College, Vermont. This is where
the paintings "My Dream" and "Beauty and The Beast" were conceived,
inspired by an art history study of Horror and Beauty. I received
my Bachelor's degree from The San Francisco Art Institute in 1995.
Please visit my website.