helena clare pittman

Artist Statement

I’m a picture plane painter. The world I lose myself in is bounded by four sides. That frame, “the first four lines of a drawing” I learned in art school, as a young painter, is a window through which some cosmos opens and I am free of the confines of this world of gravity.

The language of that realm is shape, form, the nuances of shadow, the effect of light, and, more than anything else, color.

The direct activity of painting comes most intensely to me in Winter, when I’m starved for nature’s vivid colors of Spring and Summer—flowers and greens, and light. I am also not tempted to wander in my garden then, drunk on the mountain air where I live. The harsh Winter of Upstate New York is the disciplinarian that drives me to my palette for nourishment.

I’m mesmerized by the mystery of the process: putting down paint, then being caught up in some knowing within me that organizes raw elements into something beautiful, or strong, or astonishing in its power of image.

Painting is the way I fly to that reassuring world where I am no longer separated from the mystery of some abiding truth, beyond bewilderment at a fearsome world.

Sometimes I think I’m a dinosaur, painting pictures, solving the picture plane in a time of installations. At other times I think I’m continuing on a road stumbled upon by the painters of the 19th Century--Seurat, Degas, Monet, beloved to me--and going deeper into their discoveries.

I have taught since the 60s--children and university students, at Parsons, Suny and Cuny, and now at a private studio. I teach adults making their way to serious personal expression for the first time. Teaching has always been one with my development as a painter. The visual and creative exchange with my students, their development as painters, provides a workshop, a community of artists developing together. It is hard for me to imagine painting in complete isolation. Then there is the deep gratification of opening a window for others onto a path where they, too, can experience such joy and release.

About the Artist

Helena has shown her work in galleries since the 80s, including a two-person show with her son, Painter, Galen Pittman. She has written and illustrated books for children, 17 of which have been published to date. She has written as many stories for Cricket and Cicada Magazines. Three chapters of her novel, "Ruthie Pincus of Brooklyn," due out in 2012, have appeared in Cricket.

Complete list of published work.