Painting is my best tool for philosophical inquiry. It gives me a means by which I can journey into an animal, into a mountain or a cloud, to experience from a completely different point of view and come back with what I have learned. Always the painting is an attempt to solve a particular problem; for instance, I started the Feral series when working in a sterile job — I needed more warmth, more wildness in my life and those paintings brought me there. I started I’ll Take You There when living in the mountains of western Maine during a time of political turbulence; its original impetus was the recent scientific discovery of plant consciousness. But dealing with one plant, e.g., a tree, led me to plant communities, like grass, which led me to the lay of the land, which led me to Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on the mountain, which led me to a meditation on impermanence, which led me to a study of constantly shifting clouds and constantly shifting light, which gave me guidance on how to deal with a political time of great change.
I don’t expect the viewer to get this when they look at one of my pieces. I want them to bring their own interpretation. But a philosophical inquiry is always my starting point when I paint.
Because painting is essentially my path towards wisdom, I consciously avoid falling into the rut of developing a formula. I never do a painting I know how to do. The whole point is to journey, meaning to leave my comfort zone and wander where I’m at least a little bit lost. Or even terrified. I need to stretch and grow as an artist and as a human being in order to bring each painting to resolution. I want each painting to take me deeper into my inquiry, or into a new facet of my inquiry, so that I’m always learning and the painting does not grow mannered or stale.
The painting is a record of the journey. It is footprints in the snow.
Shelah Horvitz is a contemporary American realistic painter. Trained from early youth in art, philosophy, literature, religion, and mythology, Shelah is an artist whose paintings explore how to find wisdom and connect with the whole of creation.
She lives with her husband and dog in the tiny hamlet of Weld, on the edge of wilderness in the western mountains of Maine.