“The Canyon” by Joella Jean Mahoney
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Comments on select paintings from Joella Jean Mahoney:
This painting I titled “The Canyon”, not “Grand Canyon”, because I painted it totally from memory. I consult my visual memory. My large studio works are inventions informed by experience of a specific place. Upon seeing this painting, one of my hiking friends (who has led geology trips into the Grand Canyon) jokingly said to me, “I think I’ll give you an A on your geology. You got enough of the layers correct.”
In Egypt, the Valley of the Kings and Queens reminded me of Arizona landforms. The great walls of the cliffs, across the Nile from Karnak, are not as vividly colored as Southern Utah, but there is the same strength. In this painting, the golden inner canyon walls are many to suggest the Osiris shape, the shape of the mummiform, the chrysalis, the container that promises transformation. The overhanging sphere shape in the sky is heavy with moisture. It may be the cosmic egg, origin of all. It may be clouds; it may be the ovum dividing. It promises renal above the stolid, guardian cliffs. Th painting is in three pieces; the center section is 4'x8'. At first, I intended to keep the painting at eight feet long because it is much easier to pack in my van. Upon studying the work, I saw that two one-foot side panels were necessary to complete the statement. The dark panels present and project the inner panel, which represents the tender human hope of transformation.
“Painted Land” is an actual place. At the very end of Lake Powell, heading west into Utah, the water sinks into the sand. Far off into the distance is the wind blown town of Page, Arizona - at the end of that blue mesa. A dirt road north of Big Water twists over dark lava, sedimentary layers of sandstone in flaming hues, and funereal grey Chinle hills. This is the southern most step of the Grand Staircase. This terrain takes us through a deep sand wash to a tranquil cove of Lake Powell. The golden evening light typical of the West enhances the color. This is a fugitive time of day just before violet twilight. For a moment the loveliness of evening softens everything.
Several months before beginning this work, I stood out in a hot morning on the dirt road just north of Bell Rock in Sedona and painted a two-hour study of a great, rising sandstone cliff named Gibraltar. This plein aire painting was my homework for “Freedom Landscape.” The large studio paintings refer to a specific place. However they express the essence and feeling of the place, not a picture of it.