A Flower's Shy Light

WHATEVER twists and turns art takes, drawing is always there. There is something of the earth about it, a quality of touch, of light, of inspiration. It is where things often happen; the center, a place to return to. Maxine Yalovitz-Blankenship turns to drawing in this way. We are in a time where the way things look tells us nothing. It is just too easy to create an image. Illusion is more powerful than ever, and our information culture gives us shape without meaning. To find out what's going on, we can't just look any more. The medium is not the message. Art on the cutting edge is now something we have to feel. That's hard. We've lost touch with that, which is just why this change is happening. Maxine Yalovitz-Blankenship has a feeling in her drawings that connects with this growing sensibility. I picked up on it through her awe of the paper, the way she lets so much of the surface remain untouched, as though she is happy to just share her drawing with the white around it.

In the way that this artist turns to drawing, she turns to flowers. She folds them into paper-like objects laid in white silk. They are crevices in the light, where emotions are scratched, probed, and tenderly put to rest. Each stalk is an artery, a torso, a pedestal. The head of each flower is a heart, a head, a treasure. The charcoal cuts down into the light of the paper, rich, dark lines that the artist softens with the touch of her fingers, as though she blindly retraced each mark to make sure it was true.

THERE'S a physical tangibility to these drawings that is what flowers are all about, and yet they are done with very little or no color. Sometimes there are a few strokes of paint that define petals, dripping, pointing out the pull of gravity, deepening the sensual, emotional furrows where she plants herself. But they are mostly black and white. The black burns into the white like a brand, almost wrought iron, not very delicate or fragile, with more the grit of a sunflower. When the drawing becomes almost life-size, the single flower becomes a figure we can stand up to, sharing a physical space with us, radiating an uncanny intensity.

Beyond this earthiness, there is a hope in these flower-figures, a light in the tunnel, a glow inside, which is there if we care to see it. It is a shy light, but it won't go away. Like the drawing and the flower, it has been with Yalovich-Blankenship for a long time, from growing up in a small Southern town to where she works outside Boston today.

This series showcases artists at work. Each essay is succinct, introductory, and captures art in motion before labels are applied.

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