I draw inspiration from place. As a west coast resident for almost seventy years, I am a painter inspired by the water, light and air. Water and sunlight are metaphoric interpretations about spirituality and healing.
During the 1920’s thru the 40’s architecture saw the evolution using stylized nature patterns and designs in local homes and prominent buildings. As a result, these fanciful motifs were incorporated into many household architecture niches and decor making homes appear Modern. These indelible and imaginative stylized water repetitions, circles, half circles and zigzags fascinate me with their reference to aesthetic quality. Likewise Minimalism and Abstraction are borrowed influences to express, “the mix of the postmodern lifestyle.”
Finally, historically I am interested in the work of Russian artist Malevich and his defining Square. I use the square both as a format and balancing motif where all sides being equal represent the four corners of the universe: North, South, East and West.
- Donna Morin
By DANIEL FOSTER
Special to the Press Enterprise
Loma Linda artist Donna Morin knows how to dive into the deep end of the pool. She uses graphic sensibilities and abstracted symbols in her postmodern paintings, including her current series of work that is about swimming, both literally and metaphorically.
About her work titled “Swimming”, the artist indicates the painting is about swimming with Matisse’s fish, a concept that grounds the piece in art history while also addressing her recent efforts to learn how to swim at 70 years of age. Morin takes a bold dive deep into the pool where art and life intersect.
Her seemingly simple compositions begin with a predetermined format, such as a square, and a limited palette of only two or three colors to depict a series of shapes and elements that make up her artistic vocabulary. However, the perceived simplicity is only the deception of a quick first impression.
A closer reading of the work reveals that even the choice of the square format or the appearance of a tiny square of color has deeper meaning. For Morin, the square shape equates to the four corners of the universe and sets a larger stage for the additional elements within the picture plane.
In addition to basic geometrical shapes, Morin works with historical and iconic visual references such as the looped forms often utilized in pagan, Judaic or Christian rituals. Her work has been influenced by Renaissance period paintings and by the symbol laden décor of the Roman Catholic churches in which she grew up. Her paintings distill the ornate décor to a series of recognizable shapes and elements that may change from one series to another yet are connected and carried forward throughout the body of work.
Morin became interested in painting as a child growing up in San Jose with parents who encouraged her creativity. She credits her mother, a skilled seamstress and designer, with giving her the freedom to imagine and change creative directions in the middle of an idea as the two collaborated on fashions for her to wear in her teens. Morin is equally comfortable and adept with small gouache paintings on paper as well as large-scale oils on canvas.
In "Swimming," Loma Linda artist Donna Morin uses graphic sensibilities and abstracted symbols in a postmodern painting. Morin teaches drawing and painting at San Bernardino Valley College, has won numerous awards and has exhibited extensively in the region.
"I reinvent and change from my own previous images. This makes creating a series an adventure," Morin stated. "To be engaged in process is important to one's creativity. The most exciting part about painting is the middle stage of the process, during when there are still many options, questions and decisions to be made that ultimately determine the conclusion or direction of the series and/or painting. It is a time to be thoughtful and patient."
Speaking of Morin's paintings in her 2009 book "Donna Morin: An Appreciation," artist Louis Fox says, "Morin's works are the summation of a lifetime of knowledge and experience. They are extremely sophisticated, built with complex color and form, and as in the case of the works' iconography, an understanding of formal relationships make their own demands on the viewer if he or she wishes to fully comprehend their subtle intricacies."
Morin studied painting at Cal State San Bernardino and received her M.F.A. in painting from Claremont University. She has taught at Claremont University, Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, La Sierra University Riverside, Cal State San Bernardino and is currently teaching drawing and painting at San Bernardino Valley College. Morin has won numerous awards and has exhibited extensively in the region. Her work was featured in a solo exhibit at Clara and Allen Gresham Gallery, San Bernardino, in spring 2009.
"My love of art and teaching still sustains me and I find it all a great journey," Morin said.
For more information about the Artist Spotlight, contact Daniel Foster, president/CEO of The Community Foundation at 951-684-4194 or DFoster@thecommunityfoundation.net.
Special to The Press-Enterprise
March 3, 2010
By Louis Fox, Artist
Introduction to Triad Exhibition Catalogue (January 12, 2009)
The underlying structural principles that define Donna Morin’s paintings have their antecedents in the late work of Cezanne as well as Picasso and Braque’s Synthetic Cubism, with its emphasis on the grid, the flattening of the picture plane, and the rejection of naturalistic representation; conventions that have become the all-defining characteristics of 20th century Modernism. But, although Morin has, to a large extent, embraced these formal tenets and made them the structural bases for her work, her search for a personal vocabulary includes more than an interest in pure abstraction per se, for her more recent paintings reveal a decided shift that includes veiled references to biography, and by doing so, she places her work securely within the sphere of Postmodernism.
For example, one could compare a seemingly similar use of measuring devices in problem solving. Jasper Johns had used a real ruler in his Painting with Ruler and “Gray” of 1960, and although he would use it other times after this, we will never know if the first choice was determined by either a convenient chance encounter with the object—he did, after all, greatly admire Marcel Duchamp—or for some personal reason. (The chance encounter is probably correct.) Anyway, Johns has always been reticent about enlightening the viewer about such matters, generally dismissing probing questions as irrelevant. Morin, on the other hand, uses real measuring tapes, but their use was not determined by chance but selected because measuring recalled happy memories when she and her brother played together in her mother’s sewing room. Although the measuring tapes function formally in the same way that Johns’ rulers do, Morin’s paintings are layered with additional meaning. Then there are the ubiquitous heart shapes, loosely painted and abstracted almost beyond recognition in the early work, but recently clearly defined. Their symbolism is obvious, but what specific meaning, if any, do they have for the artist? We can either ask questions or draw our own conclusions, and by so doing, expand our understanding and appreciation of the work. It was Clement Greenberg, after all, who insisted that art is a reading experience.
During a libel trial when Whistler was asked how long it took him to paint a particular work, he replied, “a lifetime.” And like Whistler, Morin’s works are the summation of a lifetime of knowledge and experience. They are extremely sophisticated, built with complex color and form, and as in the case of the works’ iconography, an understanding of formal relationships make their own demands on the viewer if he or she wishes to fully comprehend their subtle intricacies. Duchamp went so far as to insist that no work of art could be considered complete without the viewer’s input. That may be pushing the issue a little too far, but certainly no one is going to deny that Donna Morin’s paintings are entitled to some very serious consideration.