At the opening of artist Xochi Solis’ workshop at the Art Students League on Denver on June 17th, my fellow attendees and I were asked to describe the last place we had traveled to that was completely new to us. Many of the women present mentioned exotic trips to Europe, but I talked about the new hike my dad had taken me on a couple of weeks ago.
I then realized that so much of my work is about hikes I have taken with my dad through the rugged wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. It is these hikes that led to the development of what I call “my shape,” the ovoid ellipse that recurs in each piece I create.
Xochi utilizes a similar shape in her work, calling them “organic ovoid biomorphic forms,” which I think is an apt description. They are references to ellipses, orbits, celestial bodies, and organic forms like rocks and cells. For both of us, they make up the central focal point in each piece as well as the structure of the composition itself.
I gravitate to this form, responding to its sense of containment, its fullness as a memory of each adventure into the wilderness I have undertaken in my life.
In Xochi’s work, form and shape are not the only elements evoking memories and the feeling of place. Color is a powerful element in her work, referencing history, culture and moments in time. She finds color in her vast collection of magazines, handmade papers and original paintstrokes on Duralar. All of this is collaged in layers onto board, creating what she describes as “sandwiches of layered information.”
And then there’s her love of painting, which echoes my own:
“Painting is the sensation of moving the paint around, feeling the viscosity… There’s nothing more satisfying for me than pushing out a gushy color.” ~ Xochi Solis
As I worked with collage materials, I shifted gears from being a “painter” to carving my forms out of paper. The scissors were my brushes and graphite sticks, and I layered forms together, painting and drawing back into the work. The resulting collages definitely have my approach to composition, form and color, but were more dimensional and textural than my current paintings.
I am working on a focused series of mixed media paintings, experimenting with texture, layers and dimensionality in the work, trying to create tension and an “earned surface.” Each piece is worked and reworked, the underpainted elements informing top layers.
This workshop was insightful and illuminating for my process and practice. Xochi is incredibly talented, and I urge you to go see her work in the Mi Tierra exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, where she has several large-scale site-specific collages installed. Find more info about her at xochisolis.com.