Imogene Drummond Artist

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Imogene Drummond

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Woman's News November 2002 Volume 21 No. 3

Imogene Drummond: Painting The Flow Of Life
by Catherine Gonick

Imogene Drummond

     In a life that has taken her from the shores of Tripoli to the banks of the Hudson River, Imogene Drummond has created art informed by the powers of nature, ancient symbols and transformation. Her work has appeared in numerous one-person shows and group shows in New York, Washington, D.C., Greece, Hawaii, Australia and Bali. Since moving to Garrison four years ago, Drummond has also been showing in the Hudson Valley.

     Some of Drummond’s latest paintings can be seen in “New Works,” a show also featuring painter Melinda Hackett, at the Tonje Gallery in Brewster through November 12. “Drummond does with circles and curves what Mondrian did with lines and angles,” says Richard Ruchala, owner of the gallery. He also says her work “is about experiencing life as nonlinear.” From November 23 through January 11, 2003, her paintings will be on view in the “Peripheral Vision” group show at Collaborative Concepts, an up-and-coming, not-for-profit arts organization and gallery in Beacon, where her work was part of a group show in October.

     In December, Drummond’s assemblages will also be shown at “Gift Show,” a group show at the new Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon. Her paintings were part of a group show that inaugurated the gallery in September. Art collector and dealer Van Brunt says that Drummond’s paintings remind him of Arthur Dove’s in its condensed vocabulary and simplicity of form. He also remarks favorably on her “build-up of impasto and the glowing-coal effect of her color.”

'Well of the Whirl'

     In April, she had a mini-retrospective exhibition, “Symbols of Human Wisdom,” at the Phoenix Gallery in Cross River. Inspired by archetypal symbols used by various cultures throughout history, many of the works resulted from her expeditions to sacred sites and dramatic natural settings around the globe. They included paintings, collages, assemblages, painting on pottery, and illustrated manuscripts of new myths.

     Drummond says, “My art is about the wonder and mystery of life. My paintings, like pages in a diary of paint, record a search for transformation.” She uses essential regenerative forms of nature, such as seeds, pods, and eggs, and archetypal symbols of wisdom such as the Uroboros, or Great Round, and the Omphalos, or Great Navel, as she investigates “the possibilities of transforming core psychic wounds, or holes, into centers of creativity. I am fascinated by the process of the life cycle and the power of the life force that overarcs us all.”

     In one recent series, black holes can be seen as transformed into cosmic wombs, wells, or wheels of creation. “Such symbolism deals with unlocking and releasing the flow of life that continuously animates the world,” says Drummond. “For me, the act of painting is a similar, albeit personal, act.”

     Internationally acclaimed Magnum photographer Leonard Freed describes Drummond’s colorful, elemental paintings as having a primitive power like that of the German Expressionist painter Emil Nolde. He says her work “is what painting is all about,” and that “paintings must flow internally from the artist. Drummond’s work does this.”

'Mesa Merengue'

     Drummond alternates between consciously exploring symbols and following where the paint leads her. “Often I ‘kill off’ a painting to let a new, more vibrant image arise from the former image’s demise,” she says. Hence, many layers of paint build up a thick texture on the surface of the painting. “Sometimes, what is important is not seeing the surface, but seeing through to an earlier layer,” she says.

     Born in post-colonial, pre-Khadaffi Libya, where her father worked as a consultant to the oil industry, Drummond grew up in Tripoli on the shores of the Mediterranean. “Living there [until age 18] is the major reason I paint the way I do,” she says, citing the city’s influence on her sense of color, light, pattern and design, her attraction to water and love of Matisse, and her interest in ancient cultures. Tripoli offered many layers of past and present cultures, including those of the Romans, Barbary Pirates, Italians, English and Arabs. All those layers were “a good metaphor for the development of human consciousness and might have something to do with my interest in the mysterious past and connecting it to the present,” says Drummond.

     She recalls being fascinated as a child “by all the colors, smells and noises,” and especially by the Arab women’s “orange hands,” which she only later realized were decorated with henna. She fell in love with painting in high school, but trained and worked as a psychotherapist before getting a Master’s in Fine Art from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Later, she rented out her house to finance a series of “very low-budget” traveling and painting expeditions to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, and Crete. Some of her most recent work was inspired by trips to Vieques, Puerto Rico, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

     During her years of travel, says Drummond, “I always had an eye out to see where I could call home.” She now lives in the woods next to a babbling brook with her white cat Zoe. Regarding her home in Garrison, she says, “For me, this is a special, sacred place, full of very nurturing nature and interesting, enlightened people.

     Currently, Drummond is trying to develop her illustrated manuscript, “Divine Sparks: A New Creation Story,” into a “high energy, new paradigm musical for kids and adults.” In all her work, says Drummond, “I try to affirm a creativity I find in nature and the universe. I think we all need more life-affirming, celebratory images.”