Standing on the banks of the River Ganges, the holiest river of Hinduism, was a spiritual highlight of my 2016 trip to India.
Bathing and drinking the water of the Ganges is regarded to remove sin.
Another highlight was a research trip to the Indian Museum in Kolkata which houses thousands of incredible artifacts.
The sacred river Ganges and its main tributary are worshipped as the Hindu Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna. Iconographic depictions of the river goddesses are often seen on temple doorways like this one.
Ganga Yamuna are shown as beautiful maiden standing on the banks of the river. In this relief sculpture, the figures stand on swirling forms representing waves in the river water.
I was inspired to paint this sculpture to commemorate my crossing of the Ganges.
After washing the fabric, it was stretched on two frames.
I find these blank canvases a bit intimidating. Metallic gold and copper medallions are stenciled randomly around the surface to get things started.
This playful part of the process is so much fun.
I added some illusion of shadow to make the light cream colored medallions stand out. Oxidation of the copper paint when I added a dark wash was a happy accident.
I really liked how this looked and thought about keeping the painting this way.
Going ahead with the original plan, I started to draw the figures.
It takes many layers of paint to develop the forms.
The illusion of dimensionality makes the goddess figures project forward in front of the flat patterned background.
For many months I believed this diptych was complete at this stage.
Then I thought I'd like to hang the paintings like scrolls so that more of the fabric's border would show. The paintings were taken off of the stretchers. The raw edges were hemmed and additional strips of fabric were sewn on to make rod pockets.
The wide fabric borders were now too pristine. I also felt the color palette was too warm and harmonious. Some contrast was required.
After spending so much time working on these paintings, the thought of pouring blue paint over them was scary, but blue would refer to water and balance the color. Because cool colors recede, it helped push the background farther into the distance.
Clear iridescent zigzags symbolic of waves were the finishing touch.
These pieces are shown for the first time in the biennial faculty exhibition at the university where I've been teaching drawing and painting courses for the past 20 years.
In proper gallery lighting the many different metallic, iridescent, gloss and matte finishes utilized are more evident than they were in my studio.
River Goddesses Ganga Yamuna
acrylic on fabric
61" x 96"