Nauset High Alum Gaining Recogntion as a PainterAdd to My Luxx Living
Walk into just about any gallery on Cape Cod and you’re sure to find a painting of the local landscape. Whether it’s a plein air marsh, a photorealist sunset, or a pared-down study of water and sky, there seems to be a view for every taste and budget. Given the exceptional scenery at our collective disposal, this plethora of imitation is no surprise.
However, a growing number of local artists are pulling away from literal translation, interpreting our natural surroundings in surprising new ways. Brewster native Sarah Dineen is a brilliant example. The young painter has been gaining a critical and commercial following for bold, expressive works which seem (at first blush) to have very little in common with landscape.
A graduate of Nauset High School, Dineen earned her B.F.A. in Painting from Monserrat College in Beverly, Massachusetts. She has spent the better part of the last two decades channeling her experiences into inventive and highly personal works on canvas. She began doing figurative work with live models, gradually shifting away from recognizable forms as she began to see realism and abstraction as two sides of the same coin.
Either way, it’s about creating convincing three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. By liberating herself from the need for virtual likeness, Dineen has developed a style that better allows her to express how it feels to be in this world.
Her inspiration is part-nature, part-nurture. Growing up in Brewster, the artist developed an aesthetic meter in tune with the vast horizons of the Atlantic and the more intricate grandeur of places like Nickerson State Park forest. In her own words, “A lot of my work has been about movement, and I’m sure that has to do with the ocean. There is a circular energy in the currents that dictate the very shape of Cape Cod, the way that the land mass reaches out to Provincetown and then begins to wrap in toward its source. Even my paint medium is water-based.”
An avid reader, Dineen draws a great deal of inspiration from the work of Pablo Neruda, most notably his poems Sexual Water and Sonnet XVII, which together have inspired more than sixty works to date. A line in the latter reads, “I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.” She explores this idea of secrecy through the use of forms that are both seemingly familiar and ultimately unrecognizable.
The artist stands at a petite five feet tall, but her paintings are much larger. A typical canvas measures at least 62 x 72 inches. Logistically, this translates into a lot of stretching and climbing to reach all corners of a painting. Swirling gesticulations of texture, line and color are scratched, dripped and drawn, recording the rise and fall of energy and physical intensity with which each piece is executed. Dineen is an avid practitioner and instructor of yoga, and the meditative potential of a larger-than-life painting style is not lost on her.
The deliberate movement required to address a canvas of this size keeps her actively engaged in the artistic process. “Smaller paintings are harder for me,” she says. “I like a canvas that’s at least my size. It’s a world I can get INTO.” Perhaps this is allegorical to the artist’s position in time and space. One can’t help but see a woman who has a thirst for taking on the world.
This past year, she enrolled in a Master’s program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The urban environment brings new stimulation and new challenges. “It’s such a contrast to Cape Cod,” Dineen says, “I enjoy having access to Chelsea galleries, and having so many other artists in close proximity.” But the confines of city living bring a different set of spatial relationships for the artist to consider. Her studio window now faces a brick wall. “The buildings are huge but their structures are more compressed, and last semester I noticed that forms within my paintings were starting to compress.”
The contrast between vastness and intimacy, open ocean horizons versus geometric grids of rail and road, is a tension alive in Dineen’s life, as well as her art. Finding balance between exterior and interior is a central theme in her paintings, which blur the line between representation and abstraction. While her work does not contain clearly-identifiable elements of the landscape, she asserts that it is very much an extension of her experiences and locale. Symmetry is achieved out of randomness. Jagged shapes occur at uneven intervals, but are arranged in such as way that each supports the other.
Dineen’s connection to place is strong and I think it’s safe to say we can expect great things from her in the coming years. It’s heartening to see young artists making sure that Cape Cod stays in step with the variety and intensity of art being showcased on a national level.
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