Featured Image by the artist’s sister, Carolyn Sullivan.
Ottawa Painter Christina Sullivan is having her first art show ever in Portland.
When Christina Sullivan was studying ecosystem reforestation in Ottawa, she was encouraged to touch everything in nature — tree branches to the soil. She got in the habit of “feeling nature,” continuously finding new textures and patterns. She counts this as the greatest inspiration for her artwork.
“I spend a lot of time looking at and touching trees and other plants, rocks, animals in nature, soaking in the details,” Christina says. “It’s so beautiful and complicated…there are some really unique textures in plants.”
Christina came to THRU studio last week to prepare for the First Thursday art opening and from the little I know about her, I was expecting her work to mostly consist of literal imitations of nature, like plant and animal depictions. And there will be one or two like that, but nature’s influence reveals itself more abstractly. The first two she took out were patterns, experiments in texture and color. In one piece, the bark of a tree, the surface of a river or a stormy sky are all conjured.
She is interested to learn about the energy transferred when we engage in a daily, attentive and tactile relationship with the earth, and how this effects our mental and spiritual state and physical health. It’s neat to think that the patterns of her abstract work are visual expressions of those energies, the waves or vibrations between herself and the rock or tree. She tells me of the essential oils a plant’s leaf releases, when we breathe in a calming sensation is induced — whether we notice or not. She inserts the term “forest bathing” here, the first time I’ve heard it, while I think back to the gentle movements in the art she’s shown me; it has a soothing effect.
From Christina’s description of Ottawa and her upbringing there, it sounds a lot like Portland. “It feels like a small town,” she says. A river runs through it and the natural world is present within the city. And wildnerness is not a far drive. She knew as a kid she wanted to save animals and to work for the health of the planet. Although she decided that the career of an ecologist was not for her, she is pursuing art as a means to get peaceful messages out about the environment. Her academic background in ecology, plant and animal physiology, and biology allows her to approach her subject from a scientific and creative, spritual perspective.
Christina is relocating to Portland indefintely, and her next goal is to get involved in the street art scene, to contribute a mural to Portland’s public art spread. Tonight is her very first art show.