By Charles Raskob Robinson
There is much to be said about the recent success of the painter Michelle Jung (b. 1964), but what has mattered most to her is finding her artistic voice. Now that she has it, she feels totally liberated and enthused about expressing it as fully as she can. This is driven by both discipline and dedication, evidenced, for example, by the fact Jung spends half of her time in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and the other half in California (Santa Cruz and Atherton). It is particularly interesting to learn how her bi-coastal living and working arrangements have affected how and what she paints.
Jung’s bi-coastal commute provides cherished time in the air, during which she continues her study of art by reading books and articles. She also values the “mirror effect” gained by leaving paintings in her studio on one coast and returning to those on the other.
“Some artists use mirrors or turn their work upside down to gain a new perspective, but I get a fresh look after having been away for a couple of weeks,” she says. “I find this an important part of my creative experience, especially in light of the very different painting environments on the East and West Coasts. At first it was a huge adjustment: it gets dark very early in the East and the light is flatter, with fewer shadows. I had to adjust everything and stick to values. That made me think about color more. Yet the longer I observed the contrast between coasts, the more I could capture it. I believe my work is very distinctive because of that. The value scale is much tighter on the East Coast. The color is more muted, with less contrast. In California, the colors are more vibrant, much more saturated.”
Jung’s gravitation to the coasts and to marine scenes generally is a natural outgrowth of having been around boats and water for much of her life. Although she is bi-coastal, Jung confides, “Neither side of the U.S. has a monopoly on my heart. I was born and raised in Connecticut, so I will always be a New Englander. I will always be nostalgic about the East Coast. But on the West Coast, the sunset on the water is so different from the sunrise. That drama is what I’m drawn to. It’s a matter of nostalgia and mood versus drama and color. And I love them both.”