After deciding that I wanted to stay in New York City instead of moving permanently to New Paltz, I became part of The Third World Women, a collective working on the eighth issue of Heresies Magazine, a feminist publication on art and politics. This was a group of diverse women who worked on the magazine from its inception to completion. Heresies Magazine was part of an exciting time for the feminist art movement along with meetings and conferences like the WCA, Women’s Caucus for Art, and CWAO, Coalition of Women’s Art Organizations. I also participated in panel discussions and group exhibitions at Soho 20 Gallery, a women’s collective gallery in Soho.
In the late seventies, I worked briefly at Hunter College before moving to North Salem, NY, 1982-1988. There I made two small drawings that started me on the twisted form, transparent bands series. Once again in my career, the work evolved directly from earlier images. I took two of my strongest paintings from the seventies, wrapped them in clear cellophane bands, and used the resulting object as a still life. The color pencil drawings that I made, Overwindow and Redover, gave me references for new paintings and drawings.
In 1988, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT hired me to teach all levels of art. I moved to Hampton, CT in 1989 after designing and building my house with a studio on the top floor. I began experimenting with diptychs and triptychs. I liked the effect of multiple canvases and of being able to change the sequence in which they were hung. Some of the canvases were designed to flow seamlessly together, while others offered distinct transitions. In all these paintings, the illusion of layering remained important along with the solidity of the transparent forms.
My position at ECSU enabled me to travel and experiencing different countries broadened my visual vocabulary. While trips to London, Paris, and Amsterdam enabled me to see classic European works, visits to Kenya and Tanzania, and later to the middle east, the Caribbean and Latin America deepened my appreciation of non-Western art and motifs, some of which would begin to appear in my later work.
My first twelve years of teaching full time had involved balancing my art with the many time consuming obligations to the university. After being awarded sabbatical leave in 2000, I took time to renew my commitment to creativity. In the rainbow, I discovered a limited palette that offered both visual consistency and deep personal meaning. I began combining the rainbow hues with the infinite number of patterns present in traditional African textiles and designs.
By using traditional African textiles and the spectrum colors, I sought to make abstract work that carried an emotional charge and intellectual content, remembering always that there is a partnership between visual technique and subject matter. I liked the symbolism, too, of using two different grounds, black and white.
After thirty years of teaching art, I retired in 2013 as Emeritus Professor of Art and become a full time artist. I am still excited by African patterns and textiles and of using rainbow colors. But while the black and white design format and my concern with layering are ongoing, I am, for the first time, incorporating recognizable design elements like birds, lizards, reliquaries and shields. I discovered these motifs in the symbolic art of the South African Ndebele tribe. The appeal for me was that women are the traditional carriers and developer of this art form, passing it down through their families. Their expressive communication through geometric designs and patterns that is what I would like to do in my art.
In 2013, I went to London for the opening reception of my teacher Samia Halaby’s first solo exhibition. While there I toured the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, a city that was one of the ports and shipyards of the slave trade. This experience not only deepened my knowledge of the Middle Passage but also provided vital information for future images.
Both selections from my African Pattern Series and works from the 1970’s have been on display in recent years. I was one of the featured artists in Art Connections 11, at the George Segal Gallery, Montclair State University, 2015. Other examples of the African Pattern series were in a Maplewood Arts Center Black History Month exhibit, Persistence of Past and Present in 2017. This show was especially important for me because of the wide exposure to young people and adults taking classes and activities at the center.
In 2016, my earlier work was included in an exhibition curated by Barbara Stehle, 1970’s: 9 Women and Abstraction at the Zurcher Gallery, NYC. The Margaret Thatcher Project, NYC, exhibited some of my works in Hoping for Clear Skies, 2017. ( Lula- unclear here- is Art after stonewall another show- if so where?) Art After Stonewall, 1969 to 1989 is a survey exhibition exploring the impact of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender LGBTQ civil rights movement on visual culture. My painting Summer Ease ( 1977) will be included in a traveling exhibition during 2019-20 at The Grey Art Gallery and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, April 19-July 21; The Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum in Miami, Florida, September 14-January 6, and the Columbus Museum of Art, February 14 — May 17.
These exhibits and the interest in my earlier work have been gratifying on both personal grounds and as an educator. These works didn’t quite fit the required niches- abstract expressionist, pop or minimalist or decoration and pattern. It feels good to have outlasted the critics and contributed to two important cultural dialogues.
– LULA MAE BLOCTON
LULA MAE BLOCTON
798 Pudding Hill Road, route 97, Hampton CT 06247, USA