|In Plain Sight / Hindsight|
|Jan 7 - Mar 5, 2016|
The Art Fairs in Miami Beach were in full swing. There were numerous fairs with many galleries presenting thousands of works for sale. Commerce of luxury goods was center stage with souvenir hunting and the pursuit of emerging artists on buyer’s lists. It was an extraordinary phenomenon with major commercial success for some dealers. But at the same time I felt something was seriously missing. What is the core experience of art and where is that found?
"IN PLAIN SIGHT / HINDSIGHT” presents a new work by 10 Artists. I asked participating Artists to accompany each painting with a statement about the imaginative process of making the work. Specifically, focusing on the experience of visualizing a painting versus the experience of doing the painting…. what the Artist discovered during the process while creating the picture versus what may have been preconceived about their own painting before finalized.
“IN PLAIN SIGHT / HINDISGHT” seeks to examine the fundamentals of this creative experience. An art historian or scholar writes most catalog or exhibition essays. “IN PLAIN SIGHT / HINDSIGHT” The Artist’s voice is foremost, considered and heard.
LEIGH BEHNKE: In Triple Play II what you see is neither what you get, nor what it appears to be. This is a second version, almost identical, of a work done in response to my first visit to Madrid. The actual images are collaged together, and do not occupy the same spaces or relationships in reality.
I was almost dumbfounded by the enormity of the artistic legacy in Madrid. In digesting the experience I was drawn to the carvings and sculpture of the Museo Cerralbo, an over the top, unrestrained Spanish version of our Frick Museum. This was a palace occupied by an inveterate collector who intended it ultimately as a museum to house his collection, a role it now plays.
The Cerralbo holdings parallel the richness of the Spanish legacy as a whole, and seemed an apt analogy for my experience. The challenge was to juxtapose the sculptural figures with an image that would work formally while making a visual cohesive statement. As my friend, the poet Elizabeth Poreba said about the piece: "The tension between the movement expressed in the panels with the fact that they are static objects of decoration makes this piece compelling"
In fact it took two tries to bring together the various parts. In the first I was unable to use the figures as they were, and spent much time resizing them and placing them to reconcile their relationship to the middle panel, which also employs decorative elements from other Spanish sites. The first version has been reworked considerably to adjust the scale of the figures and their placement above and below the appropriated figures from a wall mural.
Finally I think I have a balance that both makes sense formally, and still draws directly upon my immediate reaction to the glory of the experience.
HELEN BERGGRUEN: One day I brought into the studio roses from a venerable bush in the garden. I set about composing a painting that would respond to the vitality of their shape and hue. Recently I have been considering parallels between musical and visual art forms. In this new painting I wanted to establish a contrapuntal relationship between the roses (orange or red) and their background (clashing greens). Listening to a recording of Baroque music, I imagined the composer writing a score influenced by the roses’ shifting tonality. The painting appeared to be finished. I turned the canvas toward the wall.
Two months passed. I looked at the painting again. Now the canvas seemed to require a bold, solid element that would break into, and perhaps anchor, the raucous color and movement playing across the surface. And so the face of a clock made its way into the upper right hand corner.
A metronome had provided a marker of time contained within the picture plane, separate from the outside world. When the clock pronounced the hour, the whole painting became encompassed by Time at large.
Dutch masters of the 17th Century depicted in their still life paintings the fullness of nature, as well as the inevitable decay of the fruits and flowers they were observing. For those artists, it was crucial to symbolize the passing of time, the cycle of life and death. Everything fades, so let us dive into these rhythms and textures, now.
ALICE DALTON BROWN: Gentle Wave began as a study for a larger painting of similar proportions. I stopped working on this 13” x 21” oil on linen when I had determined how to proceed with the large one, which I then developed and finished. I expected that the solutions to problems posed by the completed painting easily could be applied to the 13” x 21” painting to which I returned. But suddenly none of that looked right. What had worked in a big dimension would not do for this size. The little painting took on a life of its own and demanded a reinvention of color, composition, and how to make the marks of paint. It was exciting to keep discovering for this scale the needed fresh new approaches. The painting became “Gentle Wave.”
FREDERICKA FOSTER: “All that we find in life is the rhythm thru which it shows itself…Has not science shown us the fact that the ultimate difference between one element and another is only that of rhythm? There you find behind the scene the artist, the magician of rhythm, who imparts an appearance of substance to the unsubstantial.” The Meaning of Art 1921 Rabindranath Tagor
I began Beacon Falls with a photograph that I chose because it was inherently so abstract. I wanted to pay more attention to the paint than to the image right from the beginning. I had to change compositional elements as I went along to develop a rhythm for the water to move through. Certain passages had to be painted quickly, using both fat and thin brushes, and then gone back into with more layers after they had dried down. This began to capture the speed of the water’s movement. I also added color in order to explore the light that I had enjoyed while standing in front of the Falls. When the painting announced itself finished, I was reminded of Hans Hofmann’s teaching that colors have their own speed and rhythm.
MICHIYO FUKUSHIMA: It feels like I'm looking into an inner mirror. Whatever I chose to paint it shows my state of mind, health and where I am at my life. It appears in the color I chose, lines that I draw, I see myself in them. It's not usually what I initially trying to paint but I always end up seeing myself rather than the subject matter in each painting. At the end, I find myself understanding more about me. It's like self-discovery process and I believe I chose the subject matter that I feel most related to at that moment subconsciously.
JEFF GOLA: The studio practice of egg tempera painting lends itself to a meditative state of mind, and I find that I often choose subjects that will hold my interest by slowly revealing their elements to me. To do convincing rendering, one must analyze each object and form and make decisions as to what to suggest, emphasize or eliminate. This close, careful examination is essentially the same as wandering around the landscape and touching every surface, finding clues that suggest what gives a scene those elements that attracted it to me in the first place as a painting subject. The more understated and mysterious that essence is to me at the start, the more I enjoy the process.
In House off the Bypass, I was initially attracted to the sense of isolation of the house, and the colors and shapes that the scene presented solely as design forms. However, examining the house and its environs gave me as much to think about over the time that I painted them as if I was writing a story about the house’s occupants. The colorful car parked in the driveway, which seemed to be better cared for than the house, was of particular interest to me, although I barely noticed it when I chanced upon the scene. The large concrete footing in the foreground provided me with additional things to ponder as I worked. I could imagine a childhood version of myself living in that house and making up stories about it: imagining it to be the remains of a mysterious ancient civilization, perhaps the last of what was left of a battle-scarred fortification, or even the forgotten evidence of an alien visit. This painting was a perfect example of much of my process: something intrigues me about a scene, but I’ll only determine what that is as I spend time working on it.
NANCY HAGIN: Sometimes I paint from large arranged set-ups. Other times I work from smaller “found” situations that occur naturally in my studio. This one is from my still life storage shelves, where I group objects by color. I do that so I can easily find an item when I need it. I love the way things look grouped that way and I often notice a section that calls out to be painted. “Tropical” is such a painting. It is the yellow/orange section of my second shelf. I liked the luscious citric colors and round, ripe shapes. It seemed such a cheerful group and it pleased me to paint it.
GLEN HANSEN: While taking the railroad into NYC I always noticed this particular looking European town on the border on Queens. As I became more obsessed with it, I decided to get off at the Forest Hills station, loaded with a sketchbook, camera and film. To my surprise it was even grander than I could have imagined-ornate lampposts, archways, connective buildings, cobblestones etc. these latest paintings deal with duality via the arch. After researching Forest Hills I discovered that it is an exact replica of a town in England-streets, materials, signage, size... Funny thing though; upon close examination of the lamppost with the witch, there is a silhouette of the NYC skyline.
CANDACE JANS: I revisited this subject while reworking a small, unfinished study started in the early 90's. This location has great personal significance and I therefore decided to attempt an "elaboration" of the original work, opening up a wider vista while still including incidental details as clues to the locale. The process of reworking early subjects first visited 30 years earlier has been very compelling for me as I return with both old memories as well as new perspectives gained with age.
BRAD MARSHALL: I wanted to do a studio painting based one of the plein air pieces I had done as part of my Artist Residency at Bryant Park last September. I loved the way the sunlight hit the umbrellas on top of the café that was otherwise in shadow. Having an on-site work as reference is a big help. I also had taken photos at the time, which I then used to give me more information and details.
The plein air painting was the basis for my composition, as well as for the true colors and values that I saw. Photos fall short in this regard. Colors are often altered or duller. Values are often too dark in places like shadows and brightly lit places can be overexposed. Working outside, I had a limited time to paint before the light changed on the subject. The result was a faster, more sketch-like, but vibrant painting. In the studio I had the time to work in a more contemplative fashion. The ideal is to work out the intricacies of the painting while keeping the vibrancy of plein air.
ANITA MAZZUCCA: In the past, my paintings were getting larger and larger. It was never a conscious choice but rather my response to the power of nature. I have recently begun to wonder if I can express that power in a different way. In this painting, I am still responding to the strength of the autumn color and the pattern of the shadows, but I am beginning to express that response in a more intimate way.
DENISE MICKILOWSKI: My ideas come from many sources. I try to get my paintings to come as close as I can to my vision. As I proceed with the painting I let what I have painted dictate my decisions, often making changes in order to make the painting work for my aesthetics and of my viewers, of beauty and color.
EMMA TAPLEY: Two summers ago after a month long Zen retreat, I took up my camera and went for a walk with a dear friend. We had worked all month in the kitchen and were happy and exhausted. I had been taking pictures of summer before but this year it struck me that using an iPhone, I found images that, in fact, could make for fascinating painting. It was perfect…the whole universe existed in this very simple cluster of grass. I had been working with the idea of trying to re-focus on ponds. And until that point I have been painting inversions and water reflections. When I went home I printed the photographs and was so excited with making drawings, small paintings and then began “Cultivating the Empty Field”.
ALEXANDRA TYNG: During my childhood, there were many derelict Victorian houses in and around Philadelphia, and I began to be fascinated by their air of mystery and lost potential, their complex shapes and intricate detail. I wondered why they were left to deteriorate, and what might be discovered inside them.
I think this fascination began at a certain point when the innocence of my very young childhood gave way to a gradually expanding awareness. Because things happened outside my circle of knowledge, there were many mysteries to be solved, and I was a curious and determined person who drew things to understand them. I think this is where creative urge comes from—this awareness. You are not just satisfied by looking at something, you want to make your own story or painting or sculpture of it and thereby know it inside and out. When I was about seven, I found an abandoned house in the woods near my elementary school. From a crack in the stone wall of the springhouse, water flowed downhill and became a stream. Many years later I saw the house again. It had been fixed up, but the surrounding woods were just as wild and tangled. I painted the scene the way I remembered it when I first saw it. As I worked, I realized that the journey toward the house and the water source represented for me the process of discovery, of becoming aware, of bringing what is hidden into the light without losing its mystery.
JEFFREY VAUGHN: Thicket No. 41 began by selecting a photograph to depict the spring season in a vertical format. I chose an image of dogwood blossoms and a 50x40” vertical canvas. The photograph was made at Shaw Nature Preserve in Gray Summit, Mo. The photograph needs to have detail in both highlights and shadows. Subsequently, during the painting process I have an abundance of visual information to select from, to choose, discard, and add as necessary for the painting.
I wanted to bring these trees to life by expressing their spirit in paint. The image is replete with full dogwood blossoms wildly displayed in the top two-thirds of the painting. Backlighting from low sunlight illuminates the flowers and brings out their brilliant white contrasted with dark tree trunks.
The challenging part of the painting process was the multitude of dogwood tree branches. They interweave with the flowers like a mosaic. I paint them both simultaneously. I was able to do this one small section at a time working the edges of the white paint and umber tree branches and twigs to give them a natural look. If they were painted separately the branches and flowers would look superimposed on each other.
JAMES WINN: Since my work is very much about momentary effects of light, some may read the images as “merely snapshot.” However, most of my paintings are compositions, referencing many photographs that I have taken, and endeavoring to distill them into one image. I am very influenced by Rudolf Arnheim’s (1904-2007 art theorist and perceptual psychologist) books on the formal elements of composition. Following this sort of formal approach might lead to a more spare, stripped-down look, but I carefully include all that random, side by side, etcetera detail that makes an image look “real,” to capture that moment when the light played so stunningly on a scene; sort of like a snapshot.