South­west ab­strac­tions

Painter Gil­more Scott

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - PAINTER GIL­MORE SCOTT

Per­haps most peo­ple are un­aware that the geo­met­ric pat­terns and ab­stract de­signs in Navajo weav­ings have their an­tecedents in the moun­tain­ous ter­rain, canyon lands, an­i­mals, and other el­e­ments found in the South­west­ern land­scape. In a sense, some de­signs can be read, maybe be­cause they rep­re­sent a nar­ra­tive el­e­ment of Navajo mythol­ogy, or maybe be­cause they con­vey the power and might of a thun­der­storm or other nat­u­ral as­pect of the land.

The land­scape paint­ings of Diné artist Gil­more Scott are ab­stracted vi­sions of the South­west that are in­spired, in part, by Navajo tex­tile de­signs. Scott’s work seems to make the con­nec­tions be­tween the ab­stract and the fig­u­ra­tive in Navajo weav­ing more ex­plicit. “My mom was a weaver,” Scott said. “As a young­ster I would sit there and watch her weave. The graph­ics stood out for me. I would al­ways try to put some el­e­ment of weav­ing into my work. Lis­ten­ing to some of the sto­ries she would tell — she wouldn’t get to in­tri­cate be­cause I wasn’t a weaver — but she would tell me what cer­tain parts of the loom were for the Navajo peo­ple. There’s a big ar­ray of sto­ries in­volved with the Navajo weav­ing loom. It al­ways stayed with me.”

Scott makes bold use of color and back­ground pat­terns that of­ten echo some shape taken from the fore­ground. Ver­ti­cal and di­ag­o­nal stri­a­tions rep­re­sent­ing rain­fall and cloud for­ma­tions com­posed of con­cen­tric rings are com­mon fea­tures. His com­po­si­tions pop and vi­brate like the classic eye-daz­zling Navajo rug de­signs of the late 19th cen­tury, while the land­scapes cap­ture the im­men­sity of the South­ern Utah coun­try where he lives. It’s a ter­rain he knows well, hav­ing spent many years work­ing on crews fight­ing wild­fires be­fore turn­ing to art full time. “When I was go­ing to school they of­fered a sum­mer­time po­si­tion work­ing for the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, and that’s how I got into fire­fight­ing,” he said. “I put in al­most 10 years work­ing with them, work­ing from school, and in the sum­mer­time do­ing the wild­land fire­fight­ing.”

Scott had to bal­ance the de­mands of a dan­ger­ous job that of­ten took him away from home for long pe­ri­ods, and his artis­tic prac­tice flagged dur­ing his time in the For­est Ser­vice. He did man­age to se­cure a su­per­vi­sory po­si­tion that was closer to home, lead­ing an “ini­tial at­tack squad” whose job was to fight sin­gle tree fires be­fore they erupted into fullscale con­fla­gra­tions. “Peo­ple aren’t aware that a lot of the fire­fight­ing is done at that level,” he said. “Dur­ing the fire sea­son we’d get five or six fires within a week. Our forests out here are pretty rugged, so there’s a lot of one-nighters, go­ing out, find­ing the fire, hik­ing out to it, camp­ing out, and hik­ing back to our ve­hi­cles. Dur­ing the fire sea­son, you’re not home at all and you only have a cou­ple of days off.” Even in the off­sea­son, fire­fight­ers keep busy, man­ag­ing pre­scribed burns in the South­ern states such as Mis­sis­sippi, Florida, and Alabama. “I think I just burned my­self out is what it comes down to,” he said. “My wife said, ‘Why don’t you get back into art?’ and she got a full-time job at the lo­cal high school as a coun­selor.”

Scott started out slowly, feel­ing his way through the art mar­ket, but he has found an au­di­ence for his dis­tinc­tive work. “A work­ing artist tries to find a niche where they can sell some work, do work they like and en­joy do­ing, but also be able to push it,” he said. “Even to this day, weavers will come up to me and give me a thumbs up, and I’m al­ways happy. I’m hop­ing some day to col­lab­o­rate with a weaver on some of my work.” — Michael Abatemarco

MY MOM WAS A WEAVER. AS A YOUNG­STER I WOULD SIT THERE AND WATCH HER WEAVE. THE GRAPH­ICS STOOD OUT FOR ME. I WOULD AL­WAYS TRY TO PUT SOME EL­E­MENT OF WEAV­ING INTO MY WORK.

Within Her Storms (de­tail), 2017, acrylic on can­vas

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