The Tenacity of New Art: Toni Scott at Silo 118 Gallery
Placing her bright white 36”x36” square canvases on the floor, she meditates and pours a line of indigo paint in a circle. Yes, a circle in a square. She watches as the paint free forms to create what she terms a ‘Spiritual Plateau,’ a place of quiet and peace for her, thus titled, Meditation Circle #1, #2 and #3.
These Meditation Circles are artist Toni Scott’s most recent works, on exhibit at the Silo 118 Gallery in the Funk Zone Santa Barbara, now through August 7.
Partnering alongside the Meditation series are large-scale rectangular works on canvas from her Indigo Sacred Water Paintings series. The exhibit also features selected sculptural works inspired by African American sculptors and the work of European sculptor Charles Cordier, mixed media art from WASH(ED), and her Bloodlines Indigo Portraits.
Together, the 17 pieces in the gallery reflect a minimalist quality that belies the years of emotional work Scott has laid claim to infuse her art with since inception.
Let’s take a moment to consider one’s experience of the actual mediums aside from revealing the artist’s intent and history, which can be found on her website.
In the Meditation and Indigo Sacred Water Paintings series, the textural aspect of the indigo against the stark white canvas creates varying depths of application, gloss and matte, crevasses, and holes. The indigo medium gives movement to the design, a flow, a meditative interpretation. One is free to interpret… Is it a bird or a woman in flight? Is it the blue planet or a reflection of another? Do you feel peace or more questioning? Did you come for refuge or for answers?
Many artists who use indigo are drawn to the medium for its historical and emotional inference, as well as its pliancy for interpretive design. Saatchi-represented artist Justine Johnson (from London) who mixes her own indigo, works with it because “…it colours everything, all emotion, our fragile planet, our universe.” [saatchiart.com/justinejohnson]. Renowned indigo artist Jordi Sarrate (from Barcelona) has his own unique process of use: painting in reverse with indigo-dyed textiles and acid-wash brush strokes to reveal the final form.
Scott’s indigo shares their dialogue. She describes her technique: “When I paint the indigo series, I lay the canvas on the ground for the connection with the Earth. A lot of the pieces are self-made, a mutual dance, the experience of seeing how the paint and water merge on the canvas, as no floor is even, and my process of moving the water along until it’s just so. I pour from the bottle, usually just let it drop, and sometimes use a spray bottle. Drying is by laying it in the sun not with a hair dryer, if I dry it fast, it dries on the surface and creates a different texture. Also, the works in the exhibit can be viewed vertically as hung, and horizontally.”
The sculptural works in the exhibit bookmark a wall-sized piece from WASH(ED) – the sculptures, with their staid expressions and flawless beauty reflective of ancient African deities, contrast the dull patches crudely stitched together of a whitewashed civilization. Installation’s purposeful placement makes the obvious statement.
Curator and owner of the Silo 118 Gallery, Bonnie Rubenstein shares about the selection of the works: “As often happens when you visit an artist’s studio, you see so much more than you ever imagined. Scott and I initially selected work that included abstracts, portraits, and sculptures. However, once we started the installation, it became obvious this really was an abstract show. Her use of indigo and white was telling her story in a new way. I hung eight indigo pieces, a red Bloodlines piece, and a large WASH(ED) piece – a testimony to impermanence on cardboard, sewn together with sisal (twine), depicting the lack of sustainability and accountability on our planet as conditions deteriorate both physically and politically. To me the show reflects contemplation, beauty, and simplicity. One doesn’t have to know the history underlying Toni Scott’s gorgeous abstract work, but if you do, it gives it just that much more meaning and enhances your appreciation. Every piece embodies Toni’s desire to honor her ancestors, to be a protector of our planet’s resources, and to regard all humans as essential beings to be loved, nurtured, and respected.”
Scott’s works here and at her studio equate with Nina Simone’s directive, “The artist’s duty as far as I’m concerned is to reflect the times. I choose to reflect the times and situations I find myself, that to me is my duty. You don’t have a choice, how can you be an artist and not reflect the times.”