Valerie Willson

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Valerie Willson – Artist Statement

A few years ago I started to explore photographic still life as a way to work directly with objects and situations which are meaningful to me. My goal was to see if I could share my vision of the beauty in the most simple everyday objects.

Arranging flowers has obsessed me all my life. I started this journey by simply recording interesting flower arrangements to try to save some element of how ephemeral they are. Then I began to expand the compositions to include objects that I had collected over the years. Having been an abstract oil painter for many years, it was exciting to begin incorporating all these personal elements into my art. I began to experiment with photographing the arrangements against black using the south-facing light from my kitchen window. I was especially interested in the way glass would glow in the low light. The photographs began to have the look of Dutch masters. Friends suggested that I look at Paulette Tavormina, a photographer who works from fifteenth-century Italian painting for inspiration, and Andy Goldsworthy–to plant in my mind the concept that the art is in the set-up of an image and photography is used to record it.

Now I am adding a wider range of objects, fruits, vegetables, and plant forms to create more variation in composition and to take advantage of the immediate nature of photography on very short-lived objects. I am most interested in getting the glowing mysterious quality of light in Renaissance still-life paintings. For the photos, I am using natural light, a tripod, and very slow shutter speeds. I take many many photos, adjusting the stops and moving objects slightly each time to create the perfect composition and color combinations. I am fortunate to be able to use digital photography as it is difficult to see what the image will be like without seeing it in a two-dimensional format. I do not touch up the images with Photoshop. I want the art to be between me and the subject.

I am printing the images on Epson velvet fine art paper and applying them to 2″ deep wood panels. For everything up to 16″x20″ I am printing the pieces myself, so I can really control what the image will look like. I want the photos to be immediate, without frames or glass. I finish with several layers of polyacrylic satin varnish.

Valerie’s Studio is stop #19 on the 2023 VIVA Spring Art Studio Tour, May 6-7 & 13-14, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 am – 5 pm.  For more information on the free, self-guided tour and an interactive map, click here.