essays and publications

 

A Journey through Majestic Space

Dr. Scott Robinson, PhD

“I feel an urgent need to paint and feel like it is the one thing I am meant to do.”

— Winter Rusiloski 

Winter’s paintings are products of a lifelong sensitivity to movement and space.  Her images are urgent and powerful responses to the physicality of color and space she experienced while traveling through vast seascapes, wild rivers, and western deserts.  Adventures as a whitewater rafting guide sharpened her keen sense of time and space.  Training in dance—movement of the human form in space—animated her expressive marks.  A passion for heroic myths and literature inspired the entire creative process in which she choreographs paint and collaged images in a dynamic balance between figurative and abstract, near and distant, timeless and present, isolated part and unified whole.  Each composition is an original syntheses of a substantial artistic and literary inheritance, a culmination of the Modern exploration of the canvas, and a life spent responding to the epic expanses she encountered throughout her creative journey—a journey through majestic space. 

The history of Modern art was also a journey through space as nineteenth-century artists began to re-examine how we engage the picture plane.  Turner’s atmosphere dissolved into new emotional spaces filled with violent vortexes of color and texture.  Monet contemplated the flat surfaces of lily pads against the deep sky reflected on the surface of water, which revealed simultaneous spaces on multiple planes.  At the turn of the century, Cezanne’s obsessive attempts to reconcile 3-D mass with flat taches of paint found resolution in Picasso’s analytical approach to shattering time and space, reorganizing the picture plane.  Picasso’s synthetic introduction of collage revealed passages into an even newer, more cerebral pictorial space.  After WW II, Rothko’s fields of color, like deep contemplations on the distant mists of Turner, formed timeless, mystical portals.  De Kooning’s animistic marks were so brutally potent as to make the nude—the touchstone of Western art—almost irrelevant.  And Pollock’s drips uncovered internal, psychological spaces made manifest only in what tracks remained as evidence after the primal act of connecting marks to surface. 

Winter’s canvases brilliantly integrate components from all these journeys into her majestic spaces.  Winter’s father introduced his young daughter to an appreciation of machines and engineering.  There is an aesthetic in the way so many moving parts can be choreographed to function as a whole machine.  And like a machine, Winter’s paintings have a multitude of moving elements working together to form a unified composition.  Her canvases are magnificent visual machines constructed of independently functioning fragments forged from the mainstream of Modern art history.  Collaged references to identifiable places drift into vast spaces of amorphous timelessness.  Fields of saturated hues are punctuated by temporal moments of expressive mark making.  Tangible surface textures morph into mystical fields of color.  But unlike her father’s machines, where success depended upon the sum of the coordinated parts, each piece of Winter's compositions, when isolated, is visually satisfying and complete.  Beauty reveals itself as equally in the parts as in the entirety they create.  When Winter incorporates objects like the used tires dragged behind U.S. Border Patrol vehicles, for example, the image functions as an integral part of a dynamic composition rather than an isolated, disconnected object.  Even more intriguing, the image can be likened to Rauchenberg’s Monogram being used to capture evidence of the illusive act of movement across the infamous floor of Pollock’s groundbreaking studio. 

The amazing feat here is not the miraculous balance of formal elements and visual references to the history of Modern pictorial space.  It is the way this history of the canvas so intuitively combines with the personal journeys of a life spent traveling through spaces along the East Coast, down whitewater rivers, across dance floors, and through rugged Trans-Pecos landscapes.  Each canvas is both a personal narrative fixed in time and a document of the universal human experiences described in the epic myths and literature so often referenced in Winter’s titles.  Maneuvering visually through these compositions feels like watching an improvisational choreographer create dance, or a skilled rafter gracefully navigate the turbulent eddies and swells of a roiling river.  Travel, or perhaps more essentially movement through space, threads together visual motifs of waterfalls, ladders, railroad tracks, mountains, and sails within carefully orchestrated pictorial spaces that alternate between figurative and abstract, near and distant, timeless and present, isolated part and unified whole. 

These dynamic surfaces are epic journeys through majestic spaces.  Each voyage is signified by endless horizons intersected by lightening marks, passages of eternity balanced by ephemeral moments of present, near space reaching toward vast distances, palpable surface textures dissolving in and out of ethereal mists.  Every canvas is a poesis of mark making that draws from the primordial smudges found on a cave wall to pieces of the moment here, right now, and all that moves in between.