While writing Touchstone blog essays, I ask the question, ”How do artists arise in America?” The answer, of course, is that exceptional artists come from small towns and large all across the land, predictably and unpredictably. I thought about this recently while driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where my attention alternated between fast-moving 18-wheelers and glimpses of green pastures sculpted from long-ago deciduous forests when horses were the main mode of transport. Road signs mention the small towns that are quickly by-passed.
Maureen Squires, like one of her favorite authors Annie Dillard, recognizes these landmarks because they were both raised in Pittsburgh’s east end. As a child Maureen was preoccupied with drawing and attracted to handwriting. She had definite ideas about which scripts she liked and which she did not, and practiced her favorites over and over. As a Seton Hill University freshman she took her initial calligraphy class as part of her first Drawing and Design course. It laid the foundation for her lifelong fascination with words and how to give them form in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner. Design and painting became natural partners for the words she loved to script.
Solar Wind V, 30 x 23, sumi and acrylic, pointed brush, 300 lb watercolor paper
Maureen spent two post-graduate years in calligraphy studies headed by Arnold Bank at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Bank was one of the founders of the Type Directors Club in 1946, which added momentum to establishing 20th century calligraphy and typography studies in mainstream visual art in America. Bank coached his students struggling with the inevitable mistakes inherent in the meticulous production of calligraphy that, “If it’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing over again.” Scraping mistakes off the paper was only one solution. Although also inspired by Gottfried Pott, Donald Jackson and Thomas Ingmire, Maureen attributes much of her calligraphic thinking and skill to Bank.
Creation II, 20 1/4 x 22, acrylic, Sumi on cold press, pen and brush
Upon completing studies, Maureen was employed by the AT&T Bell Labs art department for a while. But her most enjoyable work experiences happened after she became a freelance artist, picking up projects and meeting other calligraphers the world over. She also developed her painter’s eye, focusing on “the secret of seeing” during the creative process. Before toning Arches Text Wove paper or canvas, Maureen chooses inspirational words that suggest a color scheme, which in turn, gives life to words. Maureen’s first Touchstone Gallery solo show, Words as Muse, typifies this process. The work in this exhibit celebrates the concepts and wordplay of Annie Dillard: “After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down eons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor.” It’s the language of movement and vigor.
Profusions on Profligacies, 30 x 30, acrylic on canvas
The field of calligraphy is a fluid one, so associating with other artists keeps Maureen current with what is happening in her field. She attends annual International Calligraphy Conferences, and has directed three of them. This year Maureen is curator and editor of the most recent issue of Scripsit magazine, a publication of the Washington Calligraphy Guild, many of whose member artists work in federal government agencies and the White House, scripting certificates, special documents, and formal invitations. A copy of Scripsit is part of her December 2017 exhibition Words as Muse. It’s an exhibit in which, in the words of calligrapher Massimo Polello, “…letters become a means to exist outside myself… going beyond the letters, captured by a sole need to see. They become signs, images, evocations, urgent needs, emotions.” It’s a unique exhibit and one in which viewers will see how words and painting marry up to form unique expressions.—Rosemary Luckett
Opening Reception Friday, December 1, 2017, 6-8:30 pm
Meet the Artist Maureen Squires/Artist Talk Saturday December 16, 2-4 pm
Touchstone Gallery — 901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001
202-347-2787 — Info@touchstonegallery.com — http://www.touchstonegallery.com
Wednesday- Friday 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 12-5
The Secret, 20×30, acrylic on canvas