This week’s January 30, 2020 Dan’s Papers cover artist Emma Ballou, who hails from Maine, has a deep knowledge of art history thanks to her career as a museum curator. Ballou, a talented painter in her own right, talks about her many inspirations.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
My painting “Blue Cabin” was inspired by a little cabin that I lived in for three years in Hampton Bays. It was a beautiful, secluded spot right on the Peconic Bay that always felt magical to me. I love this time of day, when the sky starts to darken but strangely illuminates the world with a powerful blue light. In my artwork I try to capture a feeling that resonates with the viewer and makes them say, “Oh, I know that feeling.”
Where do you find your artistic inspiration?
My artistic process is very organic and cycles with the seasons. I have found that the more aware I am of my conscious self, the more my creativity flows, because after all, art comes from within. Through the past two years I have undergone an “awakening” that has shifted how I see the world and how I see myself in it. At times I crave expansive surfaces to create on, and other times I desire the small and detailed artwork, which allows me tight control over the image that I’m creating. I’m fascinated by the unspoken language that emerges when an artist vulnerably stands in front of a blank surface and is brave enough to open their soul to the universe to see what emerges.
How would you describe your artistic style?
During the past several years I have created hundreds of pieces of artwork that range in all sizes, from 6” x 6” paintings to large murals. The inspiration for my artwork has varied from detailed landscapes to loose florals, and now I’m working on large abstracts. I actively work to see what inspires me daily, letting my creativity lead the way, so as not to define myself as any one type of artist.
Tell us about your drawing classes.
I love teaching art classes because I am very passionate about helping people get in touch with their own creativity and I believe that every human being is creative and has something important to say. Technique is very important and fun to learn but I am also interested in getting people to pick up a pencil or paint brush and open themselves up in a way that is less restrictive and subject to rules. I’m starting with offering drawing classes because I find that drawing is a much more approachable and accessible channel into the art world. Drawing only requires three things: pencil, paper, and your creativity and is a medium that travels extremely well. I have two drawing classes that are taking place in February. The first one is at Peconic Cellar Door in Peconic on Sunday, February 9 from 3–6 p.m. My second drawing class will take place at Main Road Biscuit in Jamesport on Thursday, February 13 from 6–8 p.m. Hope to see some of you there!
What have you learned about art as a museum curator?
As the curator for the Southampton Historical Museum, I learned an incredible amount about the East End and the rich artistic history that has developed over the past 150 years. The art scene exploded on the East End in the mid-to-late 1800s when William Merritt Chase, an American impressionist painter, opened a plein air painting school, which drew wealthy socialites out from the city to Southampton to study and live part time in the “Art Village,” while at the same time Samuel Parrish, a wealthy summer resident and Southampton philanthropist, decided to create a fantastic art museum that is still open today, the Parrish Art Museum. Just a couple of decades later, the East End witnessed the birth of a new avant-garde movement of art called Abstract Expressionism. Now famous artists such as Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and many more were pivotal in this new artistic movement and all spent time on the East End, creating. Needless to say, I learned a lot, and I feel honored to be creating in the same space as such historically influential artists.
What are some of your favorite places on the East End?
I have so many favorite East End spots! On the South Fork I’m drawn to the artistic history of Springs, feeding birds at the Elizabeth Morton Sanctuary, camping at Cedar Point County Park, and strolling Sag Harbor’s historic streets. On the North Fork I love to drive along the North Road to soak in the sprawling fields, plentiful vineyards and rustic farms. My favorite spot I think would have to be Oregon Road in Mattituck, for all of those reasons. The East End is so beautiful and I feel so lucky to live here because it’s famous among artists for its “light,” a certain atmospheric glow, that is unlike anywhere else.
How did growing up in Maine influence your art?
Growing up in Maine shaped both who I am as a person and who I am as an artist. I’m from Buxton, Maine, 30 minutes west of Portland, and to this day my parents still live in the same house I grew up in. My childhood home was surrounded by beautiful acres of fields and forests without any nearby neighbors. And since I was an only child, I embraced the land as my playground and created a world where the trees became my friends. This early immersion into the natural world created a beautiful bond with nature that I still have, and continue to nurture today. My connection and love for nature is evident in everything I create, from my realistic landscapes to my large abstract paintings.