INSPIRED BY NATURE
Glens Falls Business Journal
June, 2001; Volume 13, Number 4
Sabina Alcorn celebrates the beauty of nature through dramatic botanical watercolors
By Patti Croop
Sabina Fascione Alcorn may have grown up in Florence, Italy, but it was in the back yard of her Cambridge home in the late nineteen eighties that she found her most enduring artistic inspiration: flowers.
Prints of Sabinas botanical watercolors are currently on exhibit at Bean Heads coffee House, and the originals are displayed at The Alcorn studio & Gallery, 112 west Main street, Cambridge, NY.
Her prints will soon be available at Departure: the Shop of Capital Region Museums at the Albany international Airport, the Rica Gallery, and The Albany Institute of History and Art.
She is working on volume two of a botanical series, and among her subjects are the amaryllis, sun flower, and cleom. I like bold, lush, monumental flowers. The bolder flowers speak to me she says. Through her art, Sabina unveils the perfection of Nature. her gift is making us see anew the world around us and to make us see its beauty.
FINDING HER FOCUS
As a child, I loved to draw, she says. I spent many hours copying the Masters and doing portraits of friends. She traveled extensively in her early years, since her father worked for the International Monetary Fund, and relocated every two years. Eventually Sabina and her family settled in Florence.
All around me were monuments and paintings, she says. I absorbed Florence-- its aesthetic sense of proportion and its aesthetic values. The city was a constant reminder of tradition and antiquity. We lived next to one of the oldest bridge in the city, built in the 1200s, and my mothers house had originally been the stables for the Medici family.
Although Sabinašs family did not encourage her to pursue art, they respected her wishes when she decided to study at the Istituto Statale dšArte. It was there she met her husband and fellow artist Stephen Alcorn.
While completing her studies, Sabina considered several art-related professions including interior design and jewelry making. Her professor persuaded her that interior design was too mechanical a discipline for her. And although she remains fascinated with jewelry making, she only turns her attention to the craft occasionally, working mostly in silver. For her full-time profession she chose textile design, and when she and Stephen moved to the United States in 1986 she quickly found work in this field in New York City.
The Alcorns wanted to live outside the city. We began looking for a house upstate, and fell in love with the Cambridge area, she says. I lived in cities most of my life, Now here I was in the country surrounded by nature. I became a fanatical gardener.
In her textile design she found herself creating floral patterns. But I soon felt compelled to paint from life for the first time, to study from life, she says. It was a way to celebrate the beauty of nature and to express gratitude.
COMPOSITION AND LIGHT
Sabinas paintings draw the eye in through her masterful composition. The foxglove is a tall flower. So I decided to present it in three segments-- foliage on both sides and stem with buds and flowers in the middle, she explains.
For her iris watercolor, she selected flowers that had been bent in a windstorm. They were all crooked, and I left them like that, thus providing tension to the composition, she says.
Not every composition is a success. For her botanical series, Sabina created about thirty watercolor, before coming up with the final twelve.
She discovered Audubon had similar challenges with composition. he had difficulties such a s trying to fit birds with long necks onto a page. In some prints, birds arenšt in very natural poses, but it makes for a more interesting composition, she says.
Capturing a flowers luminosity is sometimes even more challenging than determining composition. I love rosones, the round Italian stained glass cathedral windows. I want to get that luminous effect with flowers, but it is difficult, particularly with flowers since they wilt so quickly, Sabina says.
That is why she works mostly in watercolors - to achieve a translucent quality that cannot be achieved with oil or tempera. Examine Sabinas buds on her iris or leaves on the sunflower. Look closely at any of her botanical pieces, and youll find the dance of light.
One of the artist Sabina credits with influencing her work is Pierre Joseph Redoute, a 19th century French botanist and creator of Les Roses folio. In Les Roses, Redoute captures the elegance and intricacies of a hundred and seventeen specimens. Les Roses remains amongst the most widely reproduced works of botanical illustration of all time. The flower was important to him says Sabina. Napoleon once asked him why he bothered with botany, and he responded that flowers were as interesting as people. I agree.
She sees her work with flowers having a spiritual aspect - constantly reminding her of the life cycle. Flowers are transient like we are, she says. Paradoxically, as my work is blossoming the flower is wilting. I capture its peak moment and through my work, in a sense, bring it back to life.
Recently, she has started to experiment- showing flowers imperfections such as the browning of leaves. I am increasingly interested in the flowers different stages -- budding, blooming, and wilting. Ill probably undertake such a project after volume two of my botanical series is released, she says.
Her first botanical series took her five years to complete and art lovers response response was immediate and positive. For the most part, Sabina does not sell her originals. Instead, she creates prints of the originals. Each print has a linocut border that Stephen designed and engraved, and I hand colored. This gives the print a unique and contemporary look.
In work not yet ready for the publics eye Sabinas art has taken a surrealistic turn, influenced by the Mexican surrealist Frida Kahlo. Currently she is working on a skull with daffodils for eyes, and sea shells for nose. Im trying to bring some life into it. This work is one way she is dealing with recent family losses. There is a Mexican ritual in which papier mache skulls with plants growing out of them are use. It reminds us of rebirth, she says.
Sabina describes this shift towards surrealism as, a slow process. Flower portraiture is an important step in the process. it is a way to celebrate nature and beauty. Life is brief. We need to focus on all of the beautiful things that surround us and that make us who we are.
She expects to complete volume two of her botanical works in two years. in the meantime, sets of prints from volume One are available through the Alcorn website, www.alcorngallery.com, and her originals can be viewed at The Alcorn Studio & Gallery, 112 West Main Street, Cambridge, NY.
© The Alcorn Studio & Gallery
112 West Main Street
Cambridge, New York 12816
Tel: (518) 677-5798
Fax: (518) 677-2526
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without prior written consent of Stephen and Sabina Fascione Alcorn.