Teresa Baksa: Middle Years Continued
Paintings, Jewels, and a Cape Cod State of Mind
With the year 2000, came a new century, and for Teresa, a new sensibility. Living on the peninsula of Cape Cod which stretches 45 miles out to sea inevitably has an effect on one's state of mind. The narrow land surrounded by blue vistas of sea and sky, with bright light diffused through moisture-laden air can effect a trance-like feeling of calm and spirituality. Some say of the Cape, that its spiral shape encourages a vortex of creative energy. Whatever it may be, it is real and felt, especially by the artists. After living on Cape Cod for 10 years, Teresa felt a need to express something of this sensation and so she began a series of paintings that were atmospheric interpretations of sea and sky.
The series began with small watercolor studies painted on the beach. In the studio somewhat larger oils were created using the watercolors as reference. Teresa felt the watercolor studies had a fresh and open quality that captured the feeling of atmosphere because of the way the paint pigments, suspended in water, dispersed across the heavily- textured cold press watercolor paper. She attempted to replicate the transparent quality of watercolor in opaque oil paints by applying the paint in veils of color, using somewhat uniform brushstrokes and layering them. The oil paint applied thinly with built-up layers of washes lent the sensation of atmosphere, but in a more intense way than watercolor.
The sea and sky paintings began to incorporate more pictorial elements and grow larger.....
...and the color began to be more broken up and diffused. This coincided with a fascination that Teresa developed, while selling Michael's gemstone jewelry. She loved the way color became fractured as it was emitted and reflected back by light through the faceted gemstones in his jewelry. A faceted natural-color blue sapphire would reflect back multiple shades of blue, and sometimes some violet or green depending on the region of the Earth where the stone was mined.
The sea and sky series continued for a number of years, but simultaneously, Teresa continued to work with the figure back at the PAAM Studio in Provincetown. It was a revelation to discover how powerful the color blue is, judging from the reaction of viewers in the gallery, and how powerful a painting of mostly atmosphere with little suggestion of humans could be. Many people made a spiritual connection to these works, and all of the blue-dominated paintings in the sea & sky series were sold.
Between The Sea & Sky
Mornings before work and Sundays in the summer, spring, and fall were spent outside either painting, swimming, running, or biking. The Baksas enjoyed touring the Cape on their tandem bicycle. Riding on the back of the tandem, performing the task of "stoker", Teresa had plenty of time to plan out new paintings in her mind, while Captain Michael negotiated the way by beaches, marshes, woods, and cranberry bogs. Traveling through the landscape on the tandem was like riding a train through imagery, and at the same time being a part of the scene by experiencing the feeling of air flow, sights, and smells. Teresa imagined the landscape as simplified light and color sensations-- scattered and shimmering colors of the sea and sky diffused over the land, and the colors of the land diffused into the sky. The language of the artist strives to combine the senses and make some sense of the essence of existence.
In October of 2004, Cape Museum of Fine Arts, now known as Cape Cod Museum of Art, presented an exhibition of Teresa's sea and sky paintings. The solo exhibition was titled Between The Sea & Sky, and it included watercolor studies and finished oils selected from this series.
Cape Cod Museum of Art requested a donation of a painting from this exhibition for its permanent collection, and so Teresa let the acquisition commitee choose from the available paintings, and they selected Group Diversity.
Some local media coverage of Between The Sea & Sky:
Birds, Bees, & Hospitals
In the second half of the new decade, Teresa's art took an inward turn towards nature in a more close-up format. Life brought some difficult circumstances in the form of serious health problems with close family members, and with two very special friends. At the same time, the downturn of the economy and the great recession was beginning, and more dire news of the state of the planet due to climate change became ever-present. An inward look towards nature, and especially birds, brought some calm to Teresa. Nature in its constant state of creating, oblivious to time and death, offered strength and hope, and also gave Teresa a place to turn during stressful times and sad feelings of loss.
In 2007, Teresa's dear friend Diane Bezan succumbed to cancer. In 2009, her husband Dr. Allan Bezan, commissioned Teresa to create a painting in memory of her to be donated to The Winsor School in Boston where Diane taught and worked as an administrator during her 30 year career there. He asked that it be a portrait of Diane, but also, more than that, he wanted a painting that would also capture the spirit of the venerable girl's school. Teresa realized a posthumous portrait of a much-beloved member of the Winsor community would be quite a challenge to embark on, but she felt that all the years of creating the watercolor portraits of children from photographs had given her enough experience to make it happen. Teresa selected a photo of Diane with three of her students from several photos that Winsor provided. The photo was taken in Diane's math class. Diane and her students were looking forward to the blackboard at the front of the classroom where a student was working out a math problem. Teresa's idea was to add two more students so that Diane would be surrounded by them, and all would be looking ahead to the future. After creating several compositional studies, and having a model sit in for Diane, in her clothing, the painting was completed in the spring of 2010.
Creating this painting was like nothing Teresa had ever felt before. Over the 10 months of its execution, she felt as though she was slowly bringing her friend back to life. One of the final touches was the refinement of Diane's hands, famous for their gracefulness, and so Teresa took care to make sure Diane's likeness also carried an important personal trademark-- a french-tip manicure.
The power of a work of art, and its ability to coalesce images, thoughts, and memories into a living presence is really a mighty thing. Now Diane's presence lives on at The Winsor School, frozen in a moment, about to speak, and encircled by her "girls" who she helped to guide into their futures. Originally the portrait was intended to be hung in Diane Bezan's office, which had been changed into a student lounge in memory of Diane. But in 2015-2016, an immense addition was built to incorporate a performing arts center, wellness center, and gymnasium to the school. The Diane Bezan Student Lounge was located just at the entryway to this addition. And so, the former student lounge was opened up to the existing corridor, and the new student lounge became the transition point between the historic main building of The Winsor School and the new complex. A location for the portrait was designed by the architects so that it would be well-lit and seen. The new Diane Bezan Student Lounge was rededicated in May of 2016.
After finishing the painting of Diane Bezan, Teresa had two more smaller commission projects to start, however, she needed to take a break and work on her own paintings for a while. She began a series of large oils that were inspired, once again, by the magnificent landscape of Cape Cod, during her walks with Michael and the couple's three Border Terriers on The Great Beach of the Eastern shore of the Cape.
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