Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reflections with One Vision- Portraiture

I had some reflections on a wonderful discussion panel this past Friday evening at the Charles Allis Art Museum on which Graeme Reid, Michael Foster, Kattie Musloff and her dear 87 year model where members.

Though I have been a landscape painter most of my career as a painter, I have a fascination with figure work and portraiture for the very reasons they discussed that night.

Particularly, I was attracted to how Katie made her models part of her life. So often as painters we are loners who paint forms or respond to forms as if they were inanimate and we are the ones who give them life in our art. Perhaps, that is what Graeme was referring , when he asked about "objectivity" as a necessity for an artist.

I do at times appreciate when artists take a dis-interesting object and infuse it with life; i.e. paint something ugly beautifully. Nevertheless, while, I, as did the panel, recognize the need for an artist to have an objective technical understanding of the painting before him and in some measure an objective view of what painting is about in general, I often fail to be intrigued by the commonly clinical-like-view that is respected among my contemporary artists when discussing their work "objectively" or mechanically.

What appealed to me in Katie's work was the personal response and respect she maintains for and toward her models... who often become her friends. You may ask what does that have to do with painting or making great art.

In Katie's personal engagement with her models she is able sensitively to begin to connect with the humanity of her model/friends not through a mechanical process but through the her own body kinetically, perceptively and personally in drawing and painting responding to the humanity and life in her subjects before her.

I think that is what made Rembrandt great. Not only was his mind able to connect psychologically with the humanity or soul of his subject, his hand was able to kinetically capture not just the physical likeness but more significantly articulate/capture the soul or humanity before him. That is not objective, but subjective response at its best. His sensibilities matched by his skill, touch a chord that resonates over time and communicates only in the way great art does in truth. This phenomena is the attraction in making paintings and why painting and drawing will never die.

As for myself and my drawings of my mother, I found my line drawings to be very much a kinetic response to my feelings for her and about her. They go beyond a mere likeness. I felt a connection to her moods and her dilemma as an aging woman. I felt elegance and brokenness. I connected in my body with her in my physical response of making art.

What I like about my opportunity with the Lake Country Ten Artist Ten Poets One Vision Project is being able to share my painting “Leaves” based on my drawings of my mother in collaboration and response to my poet, Paula Anderson who has similar sensibilities in writing. In this project, I feel the joy and exhilaration of meaningful human connection as well as the pleasure of kinetic response in painting.

I hope you can join us this Saturday, October 17, at 7 pm at the Raven Gallery in Pewaukee, WI