Sterling Mulbry"s oil paintings on wood panel present landscapes inspired by her travels to Dominica and Trinidad. Tropical vistas are viewed through sun-faded, slatted wooden shutters with succulent mangoes, lemons and pineapples in the foreground, creating a synthesis of movement from the indoors to the outdoors. The palpable surface and luscious color of Mulbry"s paintings transport the viewer to another world, one where the untamed elements of nature may very well cross the line from their world to ours. A graduate of Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington and The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mulbry has been featured in seven solo shows at Clark Gallery. Her work can be found in numerous private and corporate c
This new series of work was initially inspired by two trips to Mexico over the last few years. Upon arrival, I was immediately drawn to the colorful shapes of the colonial architecture of San Miguel and Guanajuato and made many watercolor studies of the buildings and plazas. On my second trip, I narrowed my focus to the detailed tile work on both the interior and exterior of buildings and fountains. I was also inspired by the huge array of fruit at the local markets, bought them, made watercolors and drawings, and then ate them.
It wasn’t until I returned from Mexico to my hometown in Florida where I spend most winters that I discovered a way to combine these two elements. While rummaging through old chests and closets for interesting fabrics, I came across a treasure trove of old tiles that my grandparents had collected on their many travels. One group of tiles pictured two fantastical peacocks, and I immediately knew I had found the perfect background for a large still life.
Over the last ten years, I've made several series of bird paintings and am an enthusiastic bird watcher, so I drew the birds’ shapes so that they would be my own but kept the whorls and flowers from the original tiles. I liked arranging the fruit so that it might seem that the birds were eyeing them. But the fruit often changed and moved around as I worked on the composition over several months. Ruskin once said that “composition is the arrangement of unequal things" and I’ve thought about this as I’ve moved fruit from one place to another trying to find the spot where the weight of its color and shape work within the whole painting.
Other old Mexican tiles became the background for a couple of watermelon still lifes. Here in Florida I have my pick of fruit as it comes into season in the late winter and spring. I began many of these oils in Florida working from the actual tiles and fruit and finished them in my Boston studio over the summer and fall, incorporating more bird tiles I found online and fruit as it came into season in New England. In retrospect, I realize that I have attempted to create the four seasons using fruit as the indicator of the season and the color either muted or blazing according to the warmth of the season. At present, I am working on winter.
These oils are painted on wood panels, often have a red or blue acrylic undercolor and then are composed of many different layers of oils. I use underlayers of terra cotta and dark browns to give depth to the tiles, then a layer of thicker paint for the tiles and fruit, and lastly, overlays of colored varnishes for shadows on the fruit and tiles.
Another ongoing series that I began last year with Persian Flowers with Books continues with In the Night Garden. Here I’m working with decorative elements inspired by Persian and Indian miniatures, Italian Renaissance frescoes, and real objects and playing with background and foreground space. The subjects may be different from the tiles and fruit series but the object remains the same. Flat patterns merging with three-dimensional objects resulting in a space somewhere between reality and dreams.
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