SHARON ELLIS: paintings from Yucca Valley (California)
“All our language is composed of brief little dreams; and the wonderful thing is that we sometimes make of them strangely accurate and marvelously reasonable thoughts.”
FEATHERS IN MY MIND, by Rosanna Albertini
When the language is visual, and painters make it personal, our visual habits are overturned, and thoughts themselves become imaginary feathers softening our brain from inside. Scared to see that each instant truly vanishes at the speed of light, we take refuge in a mythical country that we call time, or history. Then, strangely, we ask a painting to tell us what’s painted, as if images were more real than words.
“A phantom sea,” says Sharon Ellis. Maybe she asked the Joshua trees to tell the story, they are so tormented and bristly that they looked old when were born, and perhaps are, or passed on the feeling of water all over the desert valleys from one forest to another. Oh, the painted water is soft. Her conversation with the moon and the stars is pure luminosity, a bright flower shaped by the petal-clouds. Wearing their perfect blackness, the trees look at the light in silence, stupefied guardians.
Years ago I had a long walk on top of the mountains on the shoulders of Pisa, Italy, following narrow paths that a geologist friend of mine was tracking and naming for the first time. That’s why, on the map, one finds il sentiero Ho Chi Minh, and other memorable names from the time of the Vietnam War. Sausages in a bag were part of the scene, to avoid being attacked by wild boars. The geologist was Marco Tongiorgi, the son of a scientist whose name could shine in Sharon Ellis’ sky: Ezio Tongiorgi who dealt with chronology, climate, whale skeletons and human life in a small territory and invented techniques to measure their age. In Pisa I always heard he had discovered Carbon-14 radiation in organic dead materials, still a major dating reference. But I read in Wikipedia that Willard Libby from Chicago bears this honor, which led him to the Nobel Prize. Maybe they both did it separately, not knowing about each other. I’ll stay with the myth of Tongiorgi, because it radiates from my twenty years of life in Pisa.
“All history is made up of nothing but thoughts to which we attribute the essentially mythical value of representing what it was. Each instant falls at each instant into the imaginary.”
The most vivid image coming to me after that walk, though, is a group of flat rocks whose surface was slightly wrinkled, as if horizontally shaped by a soft, repetitive bumping: “It’s the work of the waves,” I was told, “What you see is the still form of the waves .” I turned my eyes toward the invisible see shore. Ups and down of the hills, houses and the city itself disappeared under an undulated surface not unlike the one painted by Sharon. Her images are not a figment of imagination, they are her painted story of the beginning of time. Ancient Greek philosophers left us a few, fragmented words to isolate the physical essence of natural things. This artist of today has made each of the essences a visible motion: leaves and flowers of her Aquatic Bouquet are water herself; the shaped movements bloom in a frenzy of bubbles and filaments. The blinding power of the sun, instead, spreads a garden of comets, and white shadows: Sun Garden. And the blades of grass defy the celestial explosion for they come from the ground that makes them strong, flexible, and not obviously friendly.
“In the beginning was the Fable!” Which means that every origin, every dawn of the things is of the same substance as the songs and tales around a cradle…”
PS. The three quotes are from PAUL VALERY, A Fond Note on Myth, 1928.