Alchemy of Light by Mary Conover

2010. Text by Mary Conover, Robert Thurman, Enrique Martínez Celaya and Susan Landauer. 334 pages. 282 illustrations. Hardcover.

Alchemy of Light, offers an intimate look at the aesthetic world Mary Conover has formed from the disparate influences of her powerful political family, Jungian heritage, and the ineffable presence of the sea. The book explores the relationship of the wild and empty places where Conover works to her ideas about the world and her place in it. In palimpsest-like abstractions, she has located the search for Self in the beauty and danger of untamed water and implacable desert. The artist has evolved a daily practice in which the possibility of personal transformation lives through the agency of art. For Conover the image must be found and re-found relentlessly.

In an interview with artist and writer Kathleen Loe, Conover tracks the seductions of risk in her peripatetic life.  She describes how slowly acquiring the disciplines of yoga and meditation provided a structure for the investigation of consciousness in her work, with light as the primary metaphor. The spiritual focus in Conover is further explored in an essay by Robert A.F. Thurman,

Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and a long-time personal friend of the Dali Lama. This volume mirrors the artist’s alchemical process of acceptance and transmutation by presenting, without hierarchy, intricate personal notebooks, works in progress, influential writings, accomplished paintings in oil, collage, and digital photomontage.

Conover’s widespread literary and philosophical investigations are examined in essays Susan Landauer, chief curator of the San Jose Museum of Art and renowned contemporary artist Enrique Martínez Celaya. Painters Carol Anthony and Stuart Shils contribute to the conversation on Conover’s use of color to evoke a complex state of sensual anticipation and symbiotic calm. Collectively, the images and text in Alchemy of Light create a relevant portrait of an artist who transcends current trends in abstraction by the power of an internal vision.



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