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The Electric Charge       Connie Dillon 2.18.24

Women are Waterfalls

Available at Yellowstone Art Museum's 60th Annual Auction and Gala. Online and in person bidding is offered. 

Yellowstone Art Auction 2023 - Yellowstone Art Museum


One of Georgia O'Keeffe's recurring subjects was Pedernal Mountain and, whether the main subject or sharing the canvas with a skull or flowers, it represents the landscape she loved. She felt a sense of ownership with this peak in large part due to the sheer number of times she painted it.


This little seasonal waterfall down the road from our house is my Pedernal. Just off Pipeline Road, on a grassy trail and around a bend that throws the cascade into shadows, it is a private find, even if it's the 100th time I have visited it. Like all things dearly loved, it needed a name. I couldn't keep saying, “I'm going to visit the waterfall.” Situated on a road with a long name it seemed fitting to give something small a short name so I call it “Pip,” like the character of Dickens' Great Expectations (which I feel every time I make the 1.5 mile hike to visit), only this Pip is feminine in nature.


I have painted Pip six times. O'Keeffe painted Pedernal countless times. Why do certain subjects motivate us to produce multiple works? Rick Rubin in The Creative Act; A Way of Being states, “If the work doesn't represent who you are and what you're living, how can it hold an electric charge?” We all have places we go that stimulate our senses and allow us to feel as if we're hanging out with a dear friend. We never tire of these places. They provide solace and entertain our senses. Waterfalls, especially, are capable of upping the stimulus ante with their zigzagging flows and surges, the smell of water, forest and dirt, and the rhythmic sound of water propelled down a hill following hard rains or a spring runoff.


In the winter months Pip becomes a white water torrent, but once the monsoon season ends, she goes dormant. Suddenly this brilliant little display of energy becomes a rocky, fern-lined descending ditch. It was Spring when we moved here, so even though I had thoroughly explored the area I walked past this location without pausing because water wasn't falling.


Which brings me back to why I see Pip as feminine. Water is the breath of our land. It nourishes us and we would be forever dormant without it. It trickles one moment and is a deluge the next with enough force to carve a path through a hillside. It mothers animals, providing them with a cool drink, and the moss and plants along it thrive.


It is the “electric charge” of nature and it bestows the motivation to create. How many landscapes with water—lake, river, ocean, brook or falls--have captivated you, either by sight or in art form? It is a peaceful pleasure and a natural necessity. Artists recognize that deep-seated rush that drives us into the studio again and again and it's that passion for place that provides us the electric charge.

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