I began looking at pictures of Mars in 2008. I had a job designing textiles then, and I was bored, and at lunchtime I would log onto nasa.com and stare at pictures of little mechanical rovers lurking over a vast, bright, faraway planet. Mars was in the news then–and is still in the news–because it is the ultimate frontier. China, the U.S. and India all want to send a long, skinny, phallus-like rocket up into the sky–up, up, up, up, until it pierces the Martian atmosphere and men in white suits spill out of the spacecraft to plant flags in the dirt.
Within the Shamanic astrology paradigm, Mars symbolizes the masculine life force. It is cold. It is dry. It is barren. It is harsh. But when I first looked at photos of Mars, it struck me that maybe we have never fully seen the “red planet,” for it is in fact orange. It is a lovely, lustrous orange, and oftentimes it is rimmed by a luminous and very pretty indigo sky. I wanted, all those years ago, to investigate Mars with a women’s sensitivity, and to explore its possibilities.
These paintings are, like all my work, an inquiry into color. Rendering them, I found myself liberated from the conventions of terrestrial landscape paintings (Mars does not yet have its own Turner, its vainglorious Constable) and free to imagine. What if I brought a softer, more feminine palette to Mars? In “Self Portrait of Mars,” I bled a little fuchsia onto the canvas; I integrated gentle yellow, and soft lavender, and a robin’s egg blue.
And what if my colors were able to take flight–to dance–on the surface of Mars, amid the near absence of gravitational pull? In [the painting you had inside yesterday], I let the edge of the planet blur. I let lines dissipate and dissolve into space.
And then in between paintings, as I slept, I dreamed myself up onto Mars, and I saw the whole of the Martian world as devoid of straight lines. It was a weird, hallucinatory Nirvana. It was a mad, sweet explosion of color, and for weeks straight after work, I stayed home and painted in my apartment. I only wore orange, there was no other I could imagine wearing. Then one morning I woke and realized that I’d invented a small world–and that Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury are yet to be painted.
The frames for the Mars series are made from Shadows, tape and string.