Author Joan Didion once wrote, “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.” Place shapes us, holds our histories, sears the colors and textures of vivid vistas, and evolves horizons onto our imaginations.
Greenville visual artist Michelle Jardines renders in oil the emotions a place holds. Jardines’ latest collection Series II: Interval-El Camino Del Sur reflects her personal journey with planting roots in the South and incorporates all the spaces she’s lived in, as well as the emotional journey of becoming a mother, growing as a wife, and discovering herself as a true artist.
“My responding process to my life begins with painting. It allows me to meditate and sure out solutions through my works of art,” she says.
In her lush landscapes, dense storm clouds are broken by the blend of a brushstroke or the smear of a palette knife. Light begins to seep through onto a village, beach, or green pasture. In many of her works, there’s a point where the sky sharply intersects with the horizon, giving the opposing impressions of combining and fragmenting the two worlds.
Jardines grew up in New Jersey, right outside of Manhattan, so trips to the MoMa and MET were not uncommon.
There, she discovered Frida Kahlo and Chuck Close, artists who forever changed how she viewed art’s impact. “I was completely mesmerized by their work and wanted to move people through art like they did for me,” she says.
As a Cuban-American, Jardines connects not only to the physical and emotional spirit of places she’s lived, but to her cultural heritage, as well. “Cuba has had many struggles, and art was the only freedom Cubans had to express their emotions without punishment and was supported in the country. That has trickled down to me from my family that experienced that difficult life.”
Jardines comes from a long line of artists—musicians, painters, and poets (in fact, her father is currently on a book tour touting his latest poetry collection). She worked in radio before becoming a stylist, owning her own boutique and creating a clothing line. She also did professional make-up, as well. “My need to create is much bigger than me. I’d nd outlets wherever I could, but oil painting has always been my rat true love,” she says.
Not surprisingly, Jardines describes nature as her inspiration. “It’s where I go to escape the chaos around me. It’s a place that I can get lost in color and shadows. It’s spiritual. It allows me to process my thoughts and helps me meditate my emotions onto a canvas.”
While painting may be a personal process of discovery, Jardines hopes the art makes a connection between artist and viewer. “I don’t just want to paint something appealing,” Jardines says. “I want to paint something that moves people, that erupts an internal emotion that they physically feel when they look at it.”