Editor’s Letter | A Sense of Balance

Glide, Soar, Fly by Jonnie Parker Hartman
Glide, Soar, Fly by Jonnie Parker Hartman

By Kristin Bucher

Every month in Southwest Art, we profile all kinds of artists—young and old, traditional and contemporary, emerging and established. One of the best parts of telling their stories is learning how they got to where they are today. Sometimes their artistic paths are instructive and enlightening, and sometimes they’re just plain surprising. This month’s feature on California expressionist Danny McCaw, for example, reveals that the artist’s first passion was not art, but—of all things—surfing, a passion he still pursues today even as his young painting career is flourishing. At first glance there might not seem to be any situation in which surfing would be useful for, or even related to, the pursuit of artistic excellence. But as writer Virginia Campbell points out, “a surfer’s emphasis on inner and outer balance serves a painter well in negotiating the creative anxieties that can lead to artistic wipe-out.” Perhaps that emphasis on physical and mental balance also translates to a heightened sense of balance and proportion in the artistic sense, as well.

Indeed, balance is one of the most essential principles of art and design. It refers, of course, to the way elements within a composition are arranged to create a feeling of stability (or lack thereof). And it ranks right up there with other general artistic principles such as pattern, movement, and variety in determining how successful or unsuccessful a given painting will be.
The importance of balance—both compositional and literal—surfaces again in the work of another artist who appears in this month’s pages. In fact, it’s arguably the main subject of Jane DeDecker’s monumental bronze sculpture called setting the pace, in which a life-size human figure perches atop a thin hoop. Says DeDecker of the sculpture, which is installed in front of the headquarters of the volunteer fire department in Evergreen, CO, “It has a sense of serenity, of empowerment” and delivers the message that “even though you may feel precarious, if you keep focused and have a diligent pace, you can get through.” That’s a message that anyone can appreciate, no matter what goal they’re pursuing or what path they’re taking to get there. -July 2007

Southwest Art Magazine

Kristin Bucher