Over 40 years ago, Serena Bates started her journey of exploration and interpretation of the world around her through art. Beginning probably at the age of 8 or 9, she started with pencil and paper and went on to study traditional figure painting and anatomy at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design. Over the years she has explored many mediums including charcoal, pastel, oil and acrylic paint to name a few, but when she discovered clay, she went over to the “Dark Side” as she likes to say. She had finally found her soul mate and companion saying, “When you find a material that you can work with tirelessly for hours and think minutes have passed, and your excitement still bubbles over when you leave the studio for the day, you have found home.” The artist describes herself as a story teller with an affinity for portraits and animals. “Life’s stories plant seeds in my mind, take shape in my soul, and are born through my sculptures.” Clay, Bronze and Stone are her mediums of choice. Being non-traditional in her approach, she does not take measurements, but instead relies on her eye and sense of observation to interpret a subject. Trusting intuition and a connection to the subject are more important to her than static measurements. This approach breathes life into her work and produces what she calls a “wabi-sabi” affect, the Japanese term that literally means the beauty found in imperfection or “imperfectly perfect.” Serena has exhibited in nationally known exhibitions and galleries across the United States and Canada. She has won many prestigious awards and honors during her career from the American Artists Professional League, Allied Artists of America, the Salmagundi Club, the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Club, the Academic Artist Association, Mystic Museum of Art to name only a few. The artist is also a member of the American Society of Marine Artists, Artists for Conservation, Allied Artists of America, American Artists Professional League and Salmagundi Club. The artist’s studio is located at 194 Potter Hill Road, Westerly, RI. I was invited to participate in a show entitled Gaia’s Lament, Earth Cry. It sounded like a gloomy theme, so I did what I often do in this situation: I looked for the story at the center. I paid a visit to the hosting gallery, a reclaimed old restaurant, and in the basement I discovered a doorway that had been bricked over and closed permanently. Where had that door gone? Who had bricked it over – and why? My mind immediately went to Edgar Allen Poe, The Telltale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado – and I saw a crow, warning “Nevermore” if we don’t change our ways. As I climbed the winding, creaky staircase up to the gallery, that crow grew into an entire flock – a murder of crows, ascending in dire warning from basement to second floor, winding up the stairs, perching on sills, glaring from moldings, swooping from the ceiling. The Hartford Courant described the set of sculptures that resulted from this vision as “the show-stopper.” Stories are what define my work, what drive my vision, what inspire my hands…my life. My sculptures bring those stories to life, incorporating a symbiotic mixture of ideas and visions from people around me, the environment and materials where I’m working, and that sudden burst of illumination – often coming after I’m well into the sculpting process. The stories cover a spectrum of genres, from the comic Three Stooges fountainheads squirting water from pursed lips, or a cat staring down a mouse, to Alice in Wonderland. Life’s stories plant seeds in my mind, take shape in my soul, and are born through my sculptures. To date, I feel the most significant accomplishment I have made in my life is overcoming obstacle after obstacle, setbacks, naysayers and disappointments to pursue my art and never giving up. I could not survive if I did not have my art. It has been the one stable constant, the source of strength and comforting companion to me through the many ups and downs in my life. I make art because I don’t know how not to. This is why I am here. Whether someone loves or hates my art, as long as I move them in some way with my quirkiness or storytelling, I have done my job.
- Mark Joseph Sharon
- Misty Bevis Kimbrough