Let’s remember how to mix red clay and spit—charcoal and buffalo fat. Let’s tell ourselves we said the right thing, the first time. Bargaining with the rough claws of time for a token of respect. We write ourselves down, in order to be found.
Sara Mast (Bozeman, MT) and Lisa Pressman (West Orange, NJ) have been ‘talking’, both visually and verbally, for ten years. They became close friends and colleagues in Fall, 2008, when they were both included in the invitational exhibition, New Talent, at Rosenfeld Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. They maintain a close personal and professional relationship, and do painting workshops together both in Bozeman, MT and at Castle Hill Center for the Arts in Truro, MA. Most recently, they collaborated with two colleagues on a panel for the 11th International Encaustic conference in Provincetown, MA, entitled Think Tank on Creative Teaching and Learning.
Each time that Mast and Pressman see one another, they work on paintings together. They communicate in a visual dialogue that is a delight not only for the two of them, but is often engaging for their students or the workshop participants who witness the ‘conversation’. What at first glance appears to be childish play is actually a profound engagement with the materials and processes of painting. Their joy and immersion in the spontaneity of this wordless yet articulate interchange of color, line and shape is often contagious! Yet the work is also marked by a mutual respect for one another’s visual ‘voice’, and a reverence for the ineffable ‘third voice’ that arises from their shared devotion. The painting itself always has the final word.
In the past, the paintings they work on together get caught up in the flow of their individual studio practices when they separate, and subsequently are often integrated into another work that bears the name of one artist, Mast or Pressman. Or they remain as little pieces of paper that sit in a stack in Pressman’s studio, or stay curled up like the collaborative scroll which now rests on Mast’s studio shelf awaiting Pressman’s next visit to MT.
The idea for these new collaborative paintings began as an extension of Mast’s collaborative, interdisciplinary artscience installation Cave. When Mast read a National Geographic article in Fall, 2013, that the handprints in eight cave sites in France and Spain were analyzed and three quarters of those handprints were left by women, it was empowering. This research turned the ‘male shaman-hunters-as-painters’ theory on its head, and instead suggested that women may have been the first artists! Conversations between Mast and Pressman ensued. An imaginative ‘what if’ between the two artists emerged and Two Painters Talking was born.
This exhibition is the first time that Mast and Pressman have set out to create a visual discourse sustained over time and space, based on the imagined experience of making that first mark on the cave wall--of taking powdered pigment, charcoal, ash & paint in hand to complete the drawing the stone crevice began of a bull’s horn or a lion’s jaw. Two Painters Talking represents Mast & Pressman’s shared embodiment of the origin of painting and the ‘voice’ that echoed back.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website