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Q&A with Award Winner Constance Slack

In the Key of Green and Gold, acrylic on canvas, by Constance Slack.
In the Key of Green and Gold, acrylic on canvas, by Constance Slack.

For the first of 2014’s exhibits celebrating six decades of art at The Art League, it seems natural that the best-in-show award would find its way to a long-time Art League artist.

Constance Slack, also known as Connie, has been a Torpedo Factory artist since the beginning and an Art League member for even longer, and she was recognized with the Gallery Director’s Award for In the Key of Green and Gold, pictured above. In selecting the award, the juror for “Abstract Expressionism Revisited,” Anne Marchand, pointed to the painting’s evocative color and the texture. Both are best experienced in person, of course — the exhibit is open through February 3.

We asked Slack to tell us more about music, painting, and Abstract Expressionism, the movement revisited in this month’s exhibit.

Constance Slack in 1979, working in her Torpedo Factory studio. She had a solo exhibit at The Art League that year.
Constance Slack in 1979, working in her Torpedo Factory studio. She had a solo exhibit at The Art League that year.

How long have you been an Art League artist?
Constance Slack: I believe I joined The Art League in 1967. I have been in the Torpedo Factory for nearly 40 years. Both have been instrumental in my career as an artist.

You describe your painting process as fairly chaotic. What is going through your mind while you’re working on a painting?
Most often I try not to have anything in mind when I begin. The exception would be when I have just returned from an exciting trip. Trying to paint from something I have imagined or have a picture of in my head just leads to disaster. If I do begin with a concept, I know to quickly let it go and let the painting lead the process.

For In the Key of Green and Gold, how did those colors emerge as the dominant ones — or how do you arrive at a palette for any particular painting?
The palette emerged spontaneously. I did not have a concept or title in mind when I began. I paint intuitively, making color choices as the painting dictates. In the Key of Green and Gold is a painting about the synchronicity of painting and music.

Detail, In the Key of Green and Gold
Detail, In the Key of Green and Gold

What’s your favorite music to paint to?
I paint to all kinds of music: sometimes Classical, sometimes Flamenco, movie themes, Jazz, Reggae, whatever I feel like at the moment. I don’t have a particular favorite, but I will say that the music influences the brush strokes. Adagios produce a different painting from Spanish Flamenco.

What did you listen to for this one?
I believe I may have been listening to “Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone.” One of my favorites.  It is an album of expansively inspiring music.

Why are you a painter?
In the beginning of my artistic career, I loved sculpture, wood sculpture in particular, but found it hurt my hands and elbows, limiting what I could do. I was always a painter, loving color, so dropped the sculpture and pursued painting full-time.

Detail, In the Key of Green and Gold
Detail, In the Key of Green and Gold

When did you first become interested in art, or when did you know you wanted to be an artist?
As long as I can remember, I have loved drawing and painting. Early in life, I just wanted to be an artist.

What artists have influenced you?
I like the early work of Deibenkorn, the works of Jenkins, O’Keeffe, Van Gogh, and am pulled to all Abstract Expression as it somehow resonates with my soul.

How has the abstract expressionist movement influenced your work?
Abstract expressionism, if it must have a name is who I am, what I do. It is my most natural form of expression. I find it most challenging to say something in my paintings without using images. It is my purest form of communication.

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