The first thing to know about Ocean Starr Cline is that that is her given name. The second important thing to know is that, despite the invariable interest that her name excites, she’s not much concerned with what others think. In fact, it’s an essential part of how she lives:
“My parents had me in San Francisco, named me, and immediately moved me to Clay County, Alabama where everybody was Jeremy, Jason, Sarah and Amanda. I fit in like a purple giraffe on the farm. I complained bitterly about my name for years and years and I was going to change it when I got old enough, but, by that point, I had gotten used to it – because there’s always somebody who’s going to stare or has a comment. It really fortified me to be able to put any kind of art on the wall. Some people are going to like it some people are not. And I just don’t care.”
But Cline’s life and art is very much about caring for other people though not in an intrusive or interfering way. After a few moments of talking to her, you get the feeling that she truly believes that the universe is conspiring in her favor and ours, too. All we have to do is listen.
“My whole process is about sitting down and letting what needs to come through come through without the clogs like ‘oh if I paint a bat somebody’s going to buy a bat.’ You can’t think about the money. You can know that people like bats and if you’re moved to do one, you do one. But people come to me all the time, and they’ll say, ‘this painting reminds of my Uncle who just passed and makes me close to him.’”
Cline’s paintings evince a sense of that magic – although she often works in a similar palate, her paintings each carry a unique voice, you might even detect an aura. Her approach to art leaves her open to whatever magic or inspiration comes to her in the moment. It isn’t labored, she says, “it’s always there [on the canvas]. I go, sit down, squirt some paint, and I just go. It’s not work. People walk, people breath, I paint. It’s part of the creature I am.”
And yet, Cline says, she has to “let go of the conceit that I’m painting for myself. I do not want to keep them. I want these paintings to go and help somebody, make somebody happy, be enjoyed by other people who are not me. They have to go somewhere – you’ve got to have flow.”
That naturalness requires mindfulness, so Cline is particular about when she prefers to work: “Early morning is the best – staying
away from too much news and chatter.” And it helps her “let go of the anxiety that a painting would not be good. I’m just going to put this idea down. I’m not going to fuss about perfection. I’m going to get to where it feels right.”
It’s often said that letting go is the hardest part of any labor of love, but even a quick glance at Cline’s work will demonstrate why it’s also the most important.
Starr Cline’s exhibit will be on view at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head on Market Square from June 4th through July 1st. Her exhibit will move to the West Knoxville Tomato Head from July 3rd through August 6th.