Andrea Durfee's last six months of work, "Sleeping Giants," currently fills Makers Gallery & Studio. Dozens of watercolor and ink drawings portray the female figure in diverse landscapes, visually representing "the dynamic between control and chaos in our lives, and how we reconcile opposing emotions and inclinations," Durfee says.
Some of the reclining figures dominate the terrain, while others are more fully embedded in the sweeping vistas. Slumbering heavily or seemingly about to stir, the expressive figures are curled around harbors, sprawled across plains, and tucked into the faces of cliffs or rolling hills.
The works involve themes of freedom, containment, or surrender, Durfee says. She sees these figures as the personification of the tension between opposing emotions and inclinations, and representative of our connection to the environment, the past, and each other. Appropriately, some of the figures are more embedded into the landscape than others.
Amazingly, Durfee uses no references for either the figurative or landscape elements in her work. "I rely on my own body knowledge and mindfulness," she says. "And while I love viewing landscape photography, there are no direct images that I draw from."
Durfee achieves incredible depth of field in each work. Working intuitively, she begins each piece with a loose sketch, followed by washes of watercolor that she then pulls together with precision line work to define rocky terrain, rushing tides, or delicate foliage.
Melting into the landscape, the curve of a haunch becomes a green knoll, and shoulders jut in a craggy cliff face. Durfee says the works are "the physical manifestation of processing internal and external conflict to arrive at a peaceful and balanced whole." Her method mirrors these concepts: in the attempt at organizing the vague chaos into an organized picture, she goes beyond simply finding a process for creating art to putting into practice ways of dealing with life's own chaos.
"The minute you are set with a 'life plan,' you can become inflexible," which makes you prone to breaking, she says. "The only thing I can control is how I choose to respond to the unexpected. Do I welcome and move with the unexpected, or struggle in vain against it?"
Durfee says that her experiences have taught her that the most rewarding and beloved things arise from unforeseen change. Though it's important to have some direction and goals, which are manifested in the sketched framework, "once I move into the plan, things shift and there are interactions out of my control," she says.
That's the watercolor stage, the intuitive, "letting go" part of the process, where she allows the medium and the natural unfolding of the work guide her.
"Finally, it is up to me to make sense of these shifts in a way that speaks to me and forms a balanced beautiful whole," she says.
As in life, there's a balance to be struck between relinquishing and claiming control over the way things take place. "I can't always balance this dynamic," Durfee says. "When I over exert myself on the work and try to force it into some preconceived vision, it inevitably ends up scrapped."
Durfee recycles her paper; evidence of these discarded instances can often be found on the backs of a successful works. "I find when I am thinking about my next move or the end result, balance is never achieved, because I'm not interacting in the present moment with the work," she says. "And I'm done when I feel still."
In this particular set of paintings, thin, vertical lines are incorporated into some of the works, resembling grounding rods between terrain and sky.
"I think they are my physical connection to the piece," Durfee says. "Me. Impulsive actions. My attempt at reaching in and letting that world know I'm there with it always ... at least that's my current self-analysis."