On the Run/To or From… An inquiry into the creative life of Lorraine Fink

April 18, 2014

Other News

After raising five children and seeing them off to college, many might decide that it is time to relax, smooze and play a little mahjong. But, not Lorraine Fink.

Instead, Fink was just beginning to create. For more than four decades, nothing has been able to hold back her creative life force. Painting, printmaking, collage, photography and sculpture have become her everyday activities. Fink transformed herself into an artist of substantial stature.

Encouraged to go back to school by her husband, the late Dr. H. William Fink, she earned a BFA and MFA in Visual Studies from Old Dominion University. Inspired and mentored by teachers such as Charles Sibley and Ken Daley, she went on to produce works that have been shown in many juried and invitational art shows including the Irene Leach at the Chrysler Museum, Printmakers 1979 at the Virginia Museum, the Hermitage Museum, the Twentieth Century Gallery, The Peninsula Fine Arts Center, the Crestar Bank Gallery and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Among her many awards are the Virginia Watercolor Society’s Purchase Award at the College of William and Mary, The Miniatures Juror’s Choice Award at the Hermitage Museum, a Tidewater Artist Today Painting Award at the Virginia Beach Arts Center and inclusion in a two-year traveling Smithsonian exhibition from the Virginia Museum. Her paintings and sculpture are in many public and private collections, including the series of 24 paintings entitled, Seven Days of Creation, permanently displayed at the Sandler Family Campus. To date, this creative force of nature has had more than 45 one-woman shows.

What fuels Fink’s artistic energy and vision? In preparation for her upcoming show, On the Run/To or From for the Leon Family Art Gallery at the Simon Family JCC, I had a chance to get a privileged glimpse into this mystery when she invited me to her home. Stepping into her foyer, one is immediately greeted by five, floor-to-ceiling, wood, hand-carved, Papua New Guinean shields loyally, standing sentinel over a very creative, world traveled life. Art from every continent grace the walls and ceilings of her home. Examples of indigenous craft, sculpture, masks and fabrics of all materials and textures record trips to visit cultures in Africa, India, the Caribbean islands, Nepal, China, Israel, Russia, Mexico, Japan, South America and New Guinea.

While moving through a hallway towards her art studio, it becomes obvious that she is not one to sit on a tour bus listening to a guide rattle off dry facts about destinations. Preferring to explore in the footsteps of the late Michael Rockefeller, Fink displays photos of her dancing with exotically painted, New Guinean tribesmen complete with bones through their noses, wearing grass skirts and holding spears. In India, she was spotted in the Bhratapur waterbird sanctuary, photographing the three-foot painted stork and the hornbill. In Africa, the huge marabou storks, Masai ostrich, peacocks and sacred ibis are only a few of the exotic birds she captured with her lens.

Every surface of her studio is covered with evidence of an inquisitive, persistent, creative voice delighted with the process of composing her own song. An earth brown, wood paneled space, the studio walls and table tops are decorated with various bits and pieces of artistic reference. Tiny masks from Mexico, tribal bone necklaces, Indian animal puppets, husks of dry leaves, handmade paper, images of mythological creatures, calligraphy, and photos of loved ones are lovingly placed like tokens of homage from a generous heart well aware of her life’s blessings. Large canvases stacked along any available wall and piles of unframed drawings and paintings offer glimpses of lyrical, abstract, gestural bird, fish and animal imageries. Some of her paintings have rich textural surfaces built up gradually with paint and wax, some are loosely modeled, layered with photos, yet all suggest an outpouring of personal iconography that borders on her own special mythologies.

In one of her own artist statements, Fink wrote that she often uses “the imagery of animals and birds as a metaphor for the human condition…. Birds are a symbol of aspects of humanity, fidelity, and family values. They are universal symbols of freedom and peace.”

Is there some message in Fink’s images of anthropomorphic animal shapes seen joyfully dancing, flying, swimming and running across her canvases? She wrote, “Sometimes birds swim—sometimes fish fly…they run toward a goal, away from some beginning.”

Delighted with the kaleidoscope of nature and every creative expression of human kind, Fink’s paintings reflect her fascination with Jungian thought, myths, and folktales of other cultures. How this swirling stew of influences can simmer inside an artistic sensibility and take new expressive form is the beautiful mystery of shared humanity. Perhaps in one sense or another, we are all mythmakers, driven by a passion to define, explain and make sacred the story of our lives.

by Sherri Wisoff

Letter to the Editor