For Motherwell, who has been working since the early 1970’s, painting is a physical process that brings her in directions she would have not thought possible. She paints large, right on the floor of her Somerville studio, on clay boards with lots of water and acrylic paint. She first pours and splashes the paint, then moves the board to make puddles and pushes the watery paint around. The paint glides on the clay boards and she then uses large brushes and rags to claim back white space and guide the paint into forms. Once they are dry, she fine tunes and looks for the moment when she knows they are done, when they describe the direction she wants to go in, and she sees something that totally surprises her.
Motherwell was interested in working with the RMFA because of a shared love for community. She first felt the impact of community when she spent two winters in Provincetown after she graduated from college. She spent time in her studio by the bay to try and figure out what her painting style was. Just when she was beginning to feel a connection with the locals, the tragic sinking of the fishing boat Patricia Marie showed her what it meant to be a part of a community. “As the town began its mourning, I was driven to make a stack of abstract paintings about this community tragedy. They were my ‘elegies’ to the Patricia Marie and the town of Provincetown. I had become so close to the locals during this first winter that I wanted to share my compassion for what had happened. I realized, as I painted furiously, that I had made my first ‘body of work’ that had my own signature.”
Born and raised in New York City, Jeannie Motherwell inherited a love of painting from her father, Robert Motherwell, and stepmother, Helen Frankenthaler, two pillars of mid-century abstraction. She studied painting at Bard College and the Art Students League in New York. Continuing with her art after college, she became active in arts education at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, until relocating to Cambridge, MA, where she worked at Boston University for the graduate program in Arts Administration from 2002 to 2015. Her work has been featured in public and private collections throughout the US and abroad.