Mia Scheffey creates a picture by intuition. She has no finished image in mind when she begins to paint. She does not simply execute a preconceived idea, following some linear logic. Instead, she builds a painting by making a mark — a brush stroke — that feels right, then in effect allows the picture to “answer” her with another message about which mark, which color, which texture needs to come next. The process can’t be rushed. It is a kind of dialogue, Ms. Scheffey says, a conversation between the painter and the painting.
The Vermont-based abstract expressionist will be the featured artist in a women-only exhibition entitled “Bearing Witness,” organized by the Central Massachusetts Chapter of The Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) and mounted at Gallery Sitka in Fitchburg, Mass. Helen Obermeyer Simmons, President of the Central Mass. Chapter, explains that the exhibit will focus on the artists’ sharing of experiences (which in some cases were traumatic) as the mainspring for their artwork. “When important events have taken place in my life,” Ms. Obermeyer Simmons says, recalling the death of family members and the birth of her children, “my first response is to make an image.”
Yet the featured artist’s work is non-representational, and hence is not likely to convey anything concrete about her experiences. The work conveys emotion and impressions by way of pure form and color. Mia contends that her paintings take on a life of their own in the midst of creation. There is a tension that builds as the marks create a structure of their own. The artist has learned that mistakes can occur while creating the painting’s energy field. Instinctive and intuitive though it is, the process has its own plan and schedule, so to say, and the “stakes” get higher as the painting nears completion.
“The reason abstract painting is so difficult is that one is not trying to represent anything,” Ms. Scheffey explains. “Instead, one is reaching to articulate something as of yet unknown or unseen to oneself…a memory, a feeling, an experience. So you are always starting from a place of being lost and searching for the way, and you must discover new combinations of line, color and form to search out and express this way.”
The Women’s Caucus for Art is a non-profit organization founded in 1972, dedicated to creating “community through art, education, and social activism,” according to the group’s mission statement. WCA recognizes the contributions of women in the arts, provides women with professional development, supports art activism, and advocates for equity in the arts all over the world. At the international level, WCA is a non-governmental organization of the United Nations and a founding institutional member of The Feminist Art Project.
“Bearing Witness” is an all-women project focusing on the concerns and commitments of women everywhere, employing work in pastel, watercolor, printmaking, photography, fiber art, sculpture and collage from a feminine and feminist perspective. Artists who will participate in the exhibit include WCA members Gail Bloom, C.M. Judge, Helen Obermeyer Simmons, Tamar Russell Brown, owner of Gallery Sitka, Kate Shaffer, Joanne Stowell, Sylvia Vander Sluis, Elsa Voelcker and Susan Wadsworth. Other Gallery Sitka artists will also be represented in this show.
This opening reception will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2 – 4 p.m., at Gallery Sitka West, 454 Main St. in downtown Fitchburg. The exhibition continues at the gallery through Dec. 1. Art lovers are encouraged to go to gallerysitka.com and miascheffey.com for more information.