I was first drawn to Gray Jordan’s art for the loveliness of it all. The soft, watery paintings shift from abstract to landscape like sand beneath your feet. They seem to want to capture a feeling of a place, or perhaps create a place for a feeling.
But then I was drawn into her process – it isn’t just about the painting, but about the exploration infused into it. Her colors are foraged from earth pigments and other natural and reclaimed materials. I asked her about her process and the challenges she faces, and she shared this.
I hope you enjoy.
I often say that, at its most basic, my work is about sharing that spontaneous outburst of appreciation we feel when we witness something remarkable. Almost everyday I am struck by the fundamentally miraculous nature of the world, but particularly in places where wilderness still has a freer reign – or at least where non-human priorities are still allowed to exist.
I am particularly enchanted by the reciprocal relationship between human narratives that structure the way we as a species think and the places we experience. For example, I love how dawn and dusk open those doors in our mind for shape shifting and a sense of uncertainty that often feeds into folklore and fairytales. I also particularly love how the horizon has become so symbolic of core human traits of curiosity and longing. So I guess I hope to convey the deep mystery and awe that the encounters of the world create while exploring the symbolism of abstraction and the stories we use to seat ourselves within those experiences. In short, how we mentally create belonging in a landscape and how we situate ourselves within the non-human.
Figuring out how to talk about, and even feel about, my work within a society that commodifies everything is incredibly hard. I flip flop between the dignity of the work and the feeling that gifting is the most appropriate way of sending creativity out into the world. There is also the tension between the wonderful opportunities that the online world offers for seeing and sharing work and making connections – like this one! – but with a constant concern about the impact it has on ways of working. Looking back at the history of art and its relationships to power and money makes me feel very drawn to the bits of creativity that were kept resolutely domestic, like carved spoons or domestic textiles. As a woman, these things are particularly interesting and I am very drawn to them, including sometimes using domestic linen or wood for my painting surface.
But the situation that confined creativity in this way is also very problematic. Usually I have to settle the endless circles in my mind by remembering that the creative journey is a path of questioning and I don’t have to have all the answers in order to engage with the process.
The undeniable drive to create is completely its own answer to the challenge of all those questions I ask myself. In the end, why do I create? Because I am compelled to. All the politics and the philosophy are sideshows. I make because the energy of life allows me to do so and I feel absolutely intuitively that it is a positive act. It feels to me like an expression of gratitude for being alive and a way to connect with others.”– Gray Jordan
Thank you, Gray, for sharing your work and your wisdom. May you keep creating and questioning.
You can find Gray’s work on Instagram at @grayjordanart .