Sunday, August 23, 2009

Aleta Wynn Yarrow's 'Guardians'

Aleta Wynn Yarrow, Guardians
Acrylic; 18" x 36"

I’ve always enjoyed learning about other artists’ processes. Whatever the media, something nearly always translates, becomes useful, inspires. Recently, I talked with my friend Aleta Wynn Yarrow about her painting Guardians. Here’s some of what she had to say.

Guardians is an intuitive piece that had its genesis in fairy tales and archetypes. I have always loved stories, especially the old stories. There are themes and images that recur, like the number three, a key, a castle, and animals such as the owl, fox and horse. What I set out to do is to paint a narrative painting, not in the sense that it has implied action, but in the sense that it contains archetypes from fairy tales for place, character, and object.

So, there is the night, the cloud, the constellation, the tree and the seed
to represent "place." All these symbols have deep layers and resonate in many directions, many dimensions. Night, for instance, is a symbol for refuge, sleep and dreams, for magic and the awakening of the fairy realm, for romance, for mystery, but also for evil and dark forces. Now each of those is just skimming the surface of possibility. One could write a book about the meaning and symbolism of the night. The same is true of the other symbols, particulary "tree."

The "characters" are the birds. Three is the "magic" number: man, woman,
child originally, but well adopted by religions over the millenia. In fairy tales, there are always three brothers, or events transpire three times. An artist's magic 3 is, of course, the primary pallette: red, yellow, blue. The "characters" in the painting are a scarlet tanager, a goldfinch, and an indigo bunting. The owl is the guardian, keeper of the key, and symbol of wisdom, intuition, and vision: a sort of artist's muse.

The key is the key to the painting. It is the "object," and the clue that
the artist intends more than decoration. In fairy tales, keys open doors to horrors, doors to treasures, and doors to lost loved ones.

You have the pieces and the symbols, but you have no action. That is what
you, the viewer must supply. From the vast storehouse of tales in your common memory, from the vast possibility of symbolic meanings, what meaning, what story can you create with the beginning given here? This is what I intended: an illustration for a story yet to be written.

Guardians was painted with matte acrylics on paper mounted onto stretched canvas; size is 18” x 36”.

Aleta is currently working with illustrator Johanna van der Sterre to offer "Nature's Story" wall tiles. These tiles are designed primarily for schools and libraries, and are nature-inspired, combining picture, narrative elements, and words. The project includes both stand-alone murals and series: “Like a picture book,” Aleta says, “on the wall. Children will be able to walk down the hall, reading and touching.”

Aleta’s work will be showcased at West End Gallery, Corning, September 4- October 8. Opening reception is Friday, September 4, 5-7:30. For more, visit and Aleta’s website,


Bill said...

Phew. How does one become that literate about their art?

Bill said...

...and clarity too.

Morgaine said...

Love this painting!