Images of Amazing Grace
Grace Harwood is an Oakland, California-based artist and photographer who began painting on June 23, 2001, at the age of 54. During that first year of painting, she lived in a world of color and image, composition and rhythms, plotting out her next work, living to get back to her studio, buttonholing people who really knew about painting to take a look at what she was doing, and trying to maintain at least a semblance of a wardrobe that didn’t have paint on it.
During the past dozen years, she has hosted countless studio visits, hung eight shows, two of which were solo, sold work through SF MOMA’s gallery at Ft. Mason, San Francisco, created over 150 paintings, and placed more than half of them with collectors in the US, Japan, and Italy. All the while working a full-time law job, surviving cancer and autoimmune disease, and a collapsing economy.
There are many things that are interesting about her. Her poetry book, 1/2 a Loaf (Peace & Pieces Press, San Francisco 1972) sold into a second edition, remarkable for a first small press poetry book. It was reviewed by Francis Ford Coppola’s City Magazine and The American Poetry Review. When published, her short stories often won prizes.
It is interesting that a review of her first solo photography show compared her work to that of Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.
Some people are fascinated by the fact that in her prime, she could type over 120 words a minute. She was just grateful that this provided her with a means to make a stable living.
But the facts of her life, that she is a follower of Vedanta, a lifelong Scrabble addict, that her pets normally live 20+ years, that she is a great driver, that she’s been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon twice, that she adopted a teenaged girl when she was 28, all these individual facts are unimportant except as they inform her work.
In recent days, several people in the artist-rich Oakland neighborhood she shares with the California College of the Arts, and the former head of the Department of Art History at Savannah College of Art and Design have suggested that she may well have actually reinvented abstract expressionism.
Whether true or not, it is clear that some combination of time and tide set this course for her to do paintings that touch people from all parts of the world, all colors and creeds in some deep part of themselves. The details of Grace Harwood’s journey through life struggling to make a living as a working class woman in contemporary America are not of great importance. What is of powerful significance is the work itself, created daily as the central part of that journey.