Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Textile Milltowns Oil painting and Encaustic

I grew up in a textile mill town in New England.  Lowell, Mass.  was known for its textiles and was
established to build the textile industry in the 1826 and was known as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. because it had the Merrimack River flowing through its graceful flatlands, with canals branching off into different direction,. the site was chosen so the textile factories could be powered by waterwheels. The additional introduction of a complex railway system, allowed the raw materials to be shipped to the factories and the finished goods to be shipped all over the north.  The farm girls from what was once just farmlands of Chelmsford, Mass  moved into the mill row houses and worked in the mills.  By the 1860's, Lowell was the largest industrial complex in the United States.   Immigrants form all over the world camne to work in Lowell, over the years, starting with the Irish escaping the potato famine in the early 1800's who came and built the mills.
Everyone in my family worked in the mill, my mother, myself (at the age of fourteen, working in the summers during high school), my ex-husband, and I at Joann Fabrics in Lowell, my son, at J.P. Stevens in Greenville, SCall except for my daughter.  I worked in the office as did my mother of JoAnne Fabrics, enjoyed it and made a good salary for my age.
My then husband who had worked in the mill since 18 years of age, started off as a sweeper and worked his
way up the ladder to become the vice president of a textile company over the years, was offered a job at SACM in Mauldin in the Greenville, SC area.  We moved to the south when I was 29 and my son was 8 and my daughter 10 months old. When we arrived I discovered Greenville was another huge textile town, once again established because of the Reedy River and all its canals.  Greenville and Lowell are about the same size and have a similar historical feeling, although Lowell is a good bit older and has preserved much more of its history due to being on the National Register of Historical cities.
Whereas Lowell housed its workers in row houses, boarding houses and eventually three story Victorian homes where three generations of families lived, Greenville established its mill villages.  I now live in a 1920's mill village house.
So long intro - take a deep breath, when I paint somehow textile buildings, mills and water towers pop up in my backgrounds. 
This happened with textile mill owner, which started out as a figure painting of my ex-boyfriend, Danny Johns of Staines, England.  He came to visit my after two years of courting me in letters and poems for a year, then another year of weekly three hour phone calls.  We became engaged after he came for a visit.  I shot this photo of him wearing a foreign officer;s coat he found at the Army/Navy store.  He stood surveying the Reedy River and the city of Greenville at the time, unknown to me, he was considering whether to move to Greenville or not. Just before he left after we'd been all over Greenville, visited Atlanta and saw Ministry as guest of the band in the sound booth, had a large medieval costume party and fell in love, he asked me to marry him. Unfortunately a few months after he arrived home, he realized he couldn't leave England and he broke off the engagement.
When I painted him in oils, the face came out quite different and quirky, the head too large and too slim for real9ity, but I paint quirky figures, I like them distorted. In the past, artists often distorted features in art, especially of the gods. For example in India, temple sculptors would exaggerate the breasts and buttocks of the female gods to portray her sexuality. I like smart men with good minds, and Danny was one of those so I guess I subconsciously exaggerated the head. I painted this in a five hour session.  It's not finished but is too wet to make any more changes.The background ended up being more mills than stores and upscale hotels.  I thought he looked like a figure form the past and he seemed to be to be a little arrogant, serious and looking like someone from the 1700's-1800's.  So I decided he was a textile magnet who built mills around the city.
Another piece of art that turned into a textile theme a cityscape of mills created on an 11X14 piece of cradled wood in beeswax encaustic paint.  There are two paintings beneath it that didn't work, one that was a cityscape collage in Germany and the other a painting of an old man on a city street.  The texture is very thick and varied on this board since I painted wax over paper and many layers of wax. It has a very abstract effect but I like it because it reminds me of the mill yard on a hot day when we would walk away from the mill to downtown to get lunch in a little diner with the best french fries.    

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