Renee Phillips: The Science of Art
What is art? Sure, it’s pretty, or striking, possibly frightening, amazing, life-changing, loud or even mute. It’s what you take from it, and where you place your importance or relation to it. While art is many emotions, ideas or purposes, it is certainly all about perception. For self-proclaimed color alchemist, Renee Phillips, she hopes that her art provides us all with a little bit of presence.
“My main goal is to instill some presence in the human race and open their eyes to something new,” said Phillips, who is mom to 4-year-old daughter Olive. “Have them be curious, be inspired, have them have their own visions. The greatest gift that art can give is some perspective and presence.”
BE AN ORIGINAL
The daughter of a scientist who grew up in Florida but spent her summers in the Colorado mountains, Phillips has a unique perspective and goal to share with her viewers, and one that didn’t come out of her fine arts and communication degrees from the University of Miami.
“I was always an artist from a very young age. I fortunately had wonderful parents who put me in art school and signed me up for art classes,” Phillips said. “However, I was not inspired in school. I never created an original work of art that was authentically me. It was really uninspiring.”
So, when she and her husband quit their jobs and traveled around the world, she found her eyes opened to new cultures, smells, colors and textures. When she returned to Florida, she caught herself wan- dering around her childhood art school, the Boca Raton Museum of Art, searching for something. She took a class and found mentor Eydi Lampasona, who taught her how to break the rules of art properly.
“I absolutely loved it. It was the first time in my life that I started creating artwork from somewhere else,” said Phillips, who enjoys the way things move and work. “You had never seen this image before and I created an original piece of art.”
LEARN FROM COLOR
That was eight years ago. She started her beautiful scientific journey with sea creatures using mixed media and alchemical techniques, crediting her dad who always had her tinkering with and studying scientific processes. Then, she hit the pavement and bruised her knuckles knocking on the doors of interior design shops to see if they would be willing to have her art on consignment. The answer was a resounding yes, which gave her the confidence to take the next step and sell her artwork for a living.
She moved to Manhattan and considers her residency program as a pivotal point in her art career because she was able to have professional critiques that helped progress her authentic creations at a much quicker pace. From there, she started working in abstract pour- ing and took three years working in art studios in Chelsea to develop what she hadn’t seen before.
“I had to start studying the properties of paint and writing it down. Each color wanted to do something different when manipulating wind, water and heat,” said Phillips, who now works out of the Arts Warehouse in Delray Beach. “I wanted the colors to do what they wanted to do. It was my goal to study each color to see what textural characteristics it wanted to do.”
EARTH AS THE MUSE
Her biggest inspiration is the Earth’s surface from a macro and micro level, looking so close as lichen on a rock and as far away as NASA photography and drone imagery. She’s drawn to how land and water come together, especially focusing on man’s shaping of land and water and the impact it has on the planet.
“At this point, I have the foundation of a tool chest of processes. Color is an ever-evolving learning experience,” Phillips said. “There are colors our eyes can and can’t see, so the combination of working with the process of it and diving into the study of color and how it can be manipulated is my focus. I’ve recently found the physicality of the pouring, spraying paint to be very therapeutic.”
Especially considering she put down the paintbrush after her schooling. It represented to her the connection she didn’t want to art school, which was before she found her true art self.
“I’m a physical person by nature. I like to dance, run and move my body. I don’t like stagnant energy,” said Phillips, who said she only sees her final vision about half the time when she begins an art piece. “I found that by pouring the paint I found the femininity of my body went into the paint and I wouldn’t see it until it would dry. I pour differently than a man.”
As organic as that mindset is, she’s also focusing on the inorganic effect of man’s impact on the planet. She states that this is the first time that a layer of the Earth will include plastics and inorganic materials, so Phillips feels that since the planet is changing because of man’s hands, humans need a different perspective to promote change.
She delves into what’s called “The Overview Effect,” which is a term she said that almost every single astronaut experiences after going into space. It’s described as a cognitive shift in perception and a crazy spiritual experience after seeing Earth from above because they’re neither “here nor there.”
“To really abstractly create visions of Earth’s surface from above to hopefully garner some presence in the view and make [viewers] shift their perspective on life,” said Phillips, when describing her goal as an artist. “It’s a theory in the niche world of space and is such a cool theory. Astronauts have almost all experienced it, but we could all experience it.”
In hours, weeks, months and even years that it takes for her to create her documented, dialed in and distinctive works of art, she’s always hyper-focusing on the big picture. She said that COVID has made it difficult to focus people right now, so it’s important for people to see art and experience new things. She believes that a lot of the visual artists thrive in isolation because they can tune out the noise in order to channel the vision, so it’s a powerful time for all artists.
“It’s a very weird sensation to create art because it’s the most connected to a higher power and myself that I will ever feel. To be in the flow,” Phillips said. “It’s the coolest thing that I will experience in this lifetime and what I feel out of it is very grounded. I feel very connected to the Earth and the higher frequencies when I create art.”