Ssssh: Just Listen to these paintings

As the Contributing Art Editor at Yoga Modern, I’m bringing you another look at an artist whose work not only opens our eyes to “art,” but who provides a lens to focus our awareness, and a compass to find our way to that which touches our souls most deeply.

Some Yogic Reflections on the Paintings of Stephanie J. Frostad 

Bird of Passage, 2006, all paintings by Stephanie J. Frostad

 

Beauty is the invitation. Meaning is the event. Art provides a place where we can meet in the vital and sometimes mercurial process of interpretation. I want to welcome others in, as I have been welcomed, to all the questions, observations, mysteries and epiphanies art can hold.”

Stephanie J. Frostad

 

As one who has spent professional time in both the hallowed halls of museums and on the sacred space of the yoga mat, I often see the two worlds (art and yoga) come together in a kind of harmonic convergence. When I read the words above from featured artist Stephanie J. Frostad, I could easily substitute the word “yoga” for her “art.”

When we us our practice for more than just a way to relax (and I hope we do), yoga provides an indomitable place where we can meet, and face, the “mercurial process of interpretation.”  And a paraphrase of Frostad’s next sentence is as apt a definition of yoga as any I can find in any of “the yogic scriptures.” (This is where things get really exquisite.)

The [yogi] welcomes all the questions, observations, mysteries and epiphanies [yoga] can hold.

  Displacement I, 2009

 

“With careful measures of clarity and ambiguity, I hope to create imaginative space for viewers to bring their own perspectives and experiences into the tale. One of my supreme joys is hearing stories that arise in response to the paintings.”

 

I’ll go out on a limb of a Tree Pose here and guess that many of you yoga teachers who just read Frostad’s words are thinking, That is my intention as I teach. Yoga, too, is an “Imaginative space for viewers (yoga students) to bring their own perspectives and experiences into the tale (practice.)”

The “supreme joy” (ah, that’s yoga’s greatest gift, too) Frostad finds in hearing people’s stories delights me, too. Her paintings do tell stories, and their meanings are indeed eventful. In this, she is a bit of a radical artist. She paints in a allegorical manner that has barely bobbed above the surface of art world fashionability since the 1950s, when abstraction, pop, minimalism, performance and explicit political art came into favor.

What begins to set her work apart and how it soars effortlessly above more traditional narrative painting almost defies words. There is a sublime subtlety of tone that belies a potential forecast of doom in many of her images. Her imagery is both foreboding and beautiful; it can be at once dreadful and tender. All of which is to say, ultimately, it is spell-binding.

 

“He whose mind is untroubled by any misfortune, whose craving for pleasures has disappeared, who is free from greed, fear, anger, who is unattached to all things, who neither grieves nor rejoices if good or bad things happen--that man is a man of firm wisdom.

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stephen Mitchell

 

What story is being captured in Displacement I? Baptism or double suicide? Is this captured moment one to rejoice or grieve? Does it matter? From a formal perspective, I can simply become lost in the beauty of the painting’s appearance, in an awe of Frostad’s astonishing skill. To see her work in person is to be transfixed. Bird of Passage hangs on the living room wall of one of favorite friends, one who lives far away from me. When I have the rare opportunity to visit, I am delighted to see her, but if I’m in the room with the painting, I am enthralled (it is based on the story of The Ugly Duckling).

It’s rare to find such a perfect balance of gifted story-telling and immaculate painting technique. This balance of delicate force (which the Gita calls Sattva) resides in Frostad’s paintings.

I leave you with a sampling of Stephanie Frostad’s paintings. I join their beauty in inviting you to delight in the “mercurial process of their interpretation,” and if post your responses, it will give me supreme joy.

 

 On the Horizon, 2011

Wake, 2004

 

 Sudden Gulch, 2010

Cloudburst, 2011

Biography

Stephanie J. Frostad studied at Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy and the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, receiving a BFA in 1990. Her training continued at the University of Montana where she earned an MFA in 1994. She has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad in Canada, China, Italy and New Zealand. Frostad has been represented by Davidson Galleries in Seattle since 1995.  Her work is held in numerous public and private collections including the University of Washington Medical Center, the University of Victoria, B.C., the Montana Museum of Art & Culture and the Missoula Art Museum. Frostad received a Montana Arts Council Individual Artist’s Fellowship in 1994. Born and raised in Walla Walla, Washington, Frostad now lives and works in Missoula.

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Barbra Brady is the Art Editor at Yoga Modern. She holds an MA in Museum Exhibition Theory & Cultural Studies, which she has exercised as a museum curator of contemporary art, nationally published writer, leader of a venerated nonprofit yoga retreat foundation, and now, yoga with a slant on channeling creative energy. When not practicing or teaching yoga in the tradition of her teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker (as a Certified Level IParaYoga teacher) or as an iRest Yoga Nidra practitioner, Barbra practices the yoga of “curiosity.” The curiosity that fuels her imagination may be through writing, curating, a turn of leaf or phrase, cinema, a century ride on her road bike… She’ll be sharing her curatorial picks and original musings, as she whispers in the ear of the Yoga Modern community: “Hey, look at this!” She lives in Sonoma, California, an Eden which naturally prompts her reflections on nature, food, and yes, wine (in meaningful moderation).

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