Wendy Cross: A Remarkable View of the World ... at the Blue Moose
This exhibit depicts two regions of America, the Midwest and the Northeast. I have lived equal time in both places.
I was born and raised in Southwestern Connecticut at a time when woods and swamps were plentiful and working farms still existed. By the time I was a teenager, many swamps had been drained, woods and farms had become subdivisions, and modest, period homes had been leveled and replaced by spacious mansions.
In 1984 I moved to Ohio to attend Ohio University in Athens. After leaving one of the wealthiest communities in the nation, Fairfield County, Connecticut, I found myself in one of the poorest, Athens County, Ohio. Although the City of Athens is itself a quaint college community, its outlying areas typify Appalachian poverty. Many homes are still heated solely by wood or coal, and some houses even lack indoor plumbing.
Ohio was devastated by the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, in which thousands of farms were foreclosed due to falling grain prices. In addition to rural poverty, major cities such as Cleveland and Akron lost thousands of jobs as work forces were slashed and jobs moved overseas.
In 2006 I moved back east and was overwhelmed by the number of factory towns with nothing but boarded-up factories, looming reminders of once-prosperous industries. New England's economic turmoil was the same if not worse than that of the Midwest.
In my paintings I attempt to depict modern socioeconomic struggles and illustrate how our present culture reflects history. Although I work from imagination, my subject matter is real. Most of what I paint I have seen for myself: neighborhoods and infrastructure crumbling, people succumbing to drug abuse and the negative effects of an unhealthy environment and poor diet. I am drawn to desperation, the fact that those most vulnerable rarely escape poverty and degradation.
Since I spent much of my childhood exploring woods and swamps, nature is ever-present in my art. I attempt to convey atmospheric conditions as well as the fact that nature reclaims even the most urban cityscape.
I paint in oil on canvas using rough sketches for composition and photographs for detail. While my work has elements of Surrealism and Regionalism, it is actually more akin to Primitivism. Outsider artwork lacks inhibitions and constraints exhibited in many works by trained artists. This free-flowing approach to painting continues to influence my style and technique to this day.
Copyright 2010, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont