A Conversation with Artist Linda Sirow
Linda Sirow, who has a piece in a juried show at the Richard D’Amato Gallery in Sag Harbor, New York, continues to impress with her lovely abstract encaustics. The competition, a benefit for The Retreat, a well-known shelter for abused women and children on the East End of Long Island, drew 200 applications from all over the world from artists working in various media. Of course, Sirow is pleased that her work was one of 25 selected submissions, and delighted that 100 percent of the entry fees go directly to support the work of this important organization. And how serendipitous that Sirow gets major attention at the top of the stairs of the two-floor gallery, and that the piece is next to nothing else like it around .
The colorful 24” x 24” square of layered oil and beeswax on wood is called “Two Step“ because she felt a kind of “dance-like” movement guiding her when she was painting it, she says, a sense that helped determine the placement of her signature slightly open circles. Indeed, “Two Step” exudes a kind of pulsing luminescence that suggests interacting images slightly in motion, nothing fixed—a bit like her life, which at one point she describes as having “so many moving parts,” some not as readily apparent as others. A close look at “Two Step” reveals a subtlety of form and technique: solid circles and one-inch perimeters that have been painted over and sit under the bolder circular brushstrokes, and with slight gouge-like indentation that creative depth. For those following the evolving work of this decorative artist, who also teaches art at Dalton Middle School, “Two Step” may seem bolder than usual, though Sirow still keeps to a restricted palette–here, a warm assemblage of shimmering yellows, pinks, mauves, and corals under thin lines of cooler hues–slashes of blue or green that subtly contrast with the overall pastel effect.
Over the years Sirow has found herself increasingly attracted to encaustic, or hot wax painting, and likes to experiment with its layering effects, noting that between oil and wax, the relationship can never be 50 / 50–one or the other must predominate and for her, the winner is wax. Why circles? She smiles, she likes the geometry–circles and squares— though she adds that she has also been looking at aboriginal work in Australia where dots and circles—folk patterns and symbols—constitute much of the art. She has also been looking at related work online, and she sometimes finds herself attracted to craft items, such as bowls she saw recently that were made out of knitted string, whose textured quality seemed consonant with her own predilections.
Her openness to creative impulses affects her teaching as well, where she encourages her students to see that working in clay is more than throwing on a wheel. A recent assignment included having her middle-school students bring in found materials—wire, objects—to include in their clay sculptures in a way that would enhance appreciation of repetition and form. One student, however, for whatever reason, was averse to working in clay and wanted to use crayons, melting them with a hot glue gun. Since the girl was going to explore the idea of the assignment, Sirow supported her desire to do something different. The result was an “interesting” sculpture that had been built out of melted colored crayons originally formed into Lincoln-log-like shapes–an imaginative take on the assignment. More significantly, the girl had been led to pursue a “passion” for and “excitement” about art. The finished piece gave the girl a “confidence” that followed her into high school.
So much of the education world now succumbs to curricular cut backs, and the first areas to go are always art, Sirow understandably laments. But when you cut away creative endeavor, it’s hard, if not impossible, to go back and resurrect it later in life. Conversely, when it’s there, and encouraged, it’s there forever, even if not immediately recognizable. Her own oldest son, who had always loved drawing, now works in the financial world and evaluates business ventures “creatively.” His visual art experiences in high school paid off, and he is now also involved with nonprofits in the arts. Needless to say, Linda Sirow loves her work at Dalton where for close to 20 years, she preaches what she practices and continues to practice what she loves.#