Performance Art Redux

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy

When I posted Polarized, in early May, I ended the blog with “More to come…,” so here it is at last, Topsy Turvy.  My dancer made it to the pole, as athletic as she was when she was approaching it, her lower body and abdominal strength in view, matching that upper body strength of the first painting.  

A shout out here to Whitney Browne for allowing me to use her gorgeous photos of these terrific athletes in action. Again, I was attracted to the sensuous curves of the dancer and the play of theatrical lights on her body…fun to paint! 

I have extolled the values of painting class before and was reminded of that the other day, when it was one of my painting friends who told me about the Brown University Poler Bears, a coed competitive pole dancing team with their own FaceBook page. If I ever paint another pole dancer, I might want to look for a male model…

Performance Art Redux

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvy

When I posted Polarized, in early May, I ended the blog with “More to come…,” so here it is at last, Topsy Turvy.  My dancer made it to the pole, as athletic as she was when she was approaching it, her lower body and abdominal strength in view, matching that upper body strength of the first painting.  

Polarized

Polarized

A shout out here to Whitney Browne for allowing me to use her gorgeous photos of these terrific athletes in action. Again, I was attracted to the sensuous curves of the dancer and the play of theatrical lights on her body…fun to paint! 

I have extolled the values of painting class before and was reminded of that the other day, when it was one of my painting friends who told me about the Brown University Poler Bears, a coed competitive pole dancing team with their own FaceBook page. If I ever paint another pole dancer, I might want to look for a male model…

In Black and White

What's Love Got To Do With It

What’s Love Got To Do With It

Love Me Tender

Love Me Tender

 

I love to paint portraits. It is enormously satisfying to see a face form on a blank canvas, and quite often in the past year or two, twice as good to see two faces. Two faces make a painting about relationships, not likeness. Two faces on a canvas have something to say to one another; it’s my job to depict whatever that is—be it fondness, disdain, caring, annoyance, compassion, friendship, passion or something more.

And I love color. The vast majority of my work has always been in color—bright, vivid, in your face color. But I was inspired to try my hand at images in black and white when I saw a painting that my friend, Michael Wolov, had bought on a trip to Cuba a few years ago…a painting of an old, wrinkled Cuban man, smoking a big cigar. Until he told me otherwise, I had always thought that it was a photograph that Michael had taken himself, the details so perfect, so real. I tucked it away in the back of my mind, until I chose to paint a couple kissing and decided to attempt it in black and white.

I always start my paintings with a grisaille, a monochromatic underpainting, in which I draw the image with my brush and block out all the darks and lift the lights that will define the images. Once that dries, the next step would be to apply color, again starting with the darks, but this time, instead of various tones of flesh, my palette was filled with shades of white, gray and black. In each painting, I found that the lack of color freed me to paint shapes and patterns with increased contrast. Without the distraction of color, I think the images become more compelling, more dramatic, if you will, much like a good black and white photograph. 

I give most of my paintings titles, often a hint at what I mean to convey. The titles usually come to me at some point near the end of the process—some are immediately apparent; others call for opinions from family, friends or fellow painters. One of my first painting teachers, Jack Highberger, happened to teach my painting class last week, when I was finishing the first of my black and white couples. He remarked that the man looked very tender toward the woman, moving me to call it “Love Me Tender.” As I turned to my second pair of lovers, I knew immediately that I would call it “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Some titles come easy. 

In Praise of Oil Painting

Pipe Dreams

Pipe Dreams

Oils are the most forgiving medium I know. About forty years ago, I started making art out of clay and learned that breakage and misfirings could destroy something that had taken weeks to make. Taking up stone carving twenty years later, I found that a misplaced chisel, when carving a groin, could leave your marble torso an amputee or turn your two entwined lovers into two separate figures, in that case a happy accident. Exploring painting once I learned to draw, I found that watercolor was the most exacting (every mark you make stays on that paper), and acrylics dried too fast for my taste—I need time and a margin of error.

Imagine my joy at discovering oil painting! I start most paintings with a grisaille, an underpainting drawn with thinned paint, the perfect time to make all of my important decisions: placement on the canvas, proportion, lights and darks, etc. Some days it comes easy, but I have been known to wipe out a day’s work, only to come back to my newly blank canvas the next time, because the painting depends on that drawing. Then the paint application begins. There, too, if you get something wrong, you can fix it—color, temperature, background, whatever. Even once you’ve called it done, a detail in a painting can come back to speak to you. I added reflected light from street lamps to my tango dancers in Dancing in the Dark, a few weeks after I had called it finished.

I started my smoke series with Up In Smoke, not intending a series but just enjoying the challenge of painting the background first, in an ombre effect, shading the color from deepest purple to paler violet and then adding the match and the smoke. There’s no underpainting for these—the smoke is painted free hand, with oil paints thinned with linseed oil for the transparency. I liked painting it so much, it led me to do three more, each time choosing a different source for the smoke and a different ombre background. It was only after I had finished Take a Deep Breath that I decided to hang them together, a series of four, but when I looked at them in relation to one another, I realized that the bright turquoise I had used in Pipe Dreams would not work in the group. While the charcoal gray lightens to the color of ashes and makes the pipe recede, it’s all about the smoke, as it should be.      

 

 

Blurred Lines

Shh..Don't Tell Anyone

Shh..Don’t Tell Anyone

 

I do love a painting class. There’s usually a teacher or two there, someone to engage you in a dialogue about what you’re doing, what you want your painting to be and how to get there. And when you step back from your own painting, as you must do and often, you are surrounded by other artists and the myriad of subjects that they’re painting. You learn so much from other people’s work! Sometimes it influences you; sometimes you might even steal something.

Almost a year and a half ago, I stopped by the Acorn Gallery during the Marblehead Arts Festival and saw Lexi Baliotis (getting married next week, she’ll be known as Alexis Kereakaglow) working on a painting of a girl on a beach.  I was completely enchanted by it—a back and side view that featured the girl’s ear in close up detail.  You could have reached out to touch that ear or at the very least whispered a secret!  So this year, I painted Shh…Don’t Tell Anyone with the image of Lexi’s ear in my mind’s eye.  I’d call that inspiration.

  

Deep Purple and a Little Blue

My husband loves women and is enough of a man to be very much in touch with his feminine side. He was in the fashion business for many years and never lost the habit of looking through Vogue or W, though now he might be paying more attention to the beautiful women on those pages than he is to the hottest new colors and latest fashion trends. He is a Brooklyn boy of a certain age, after all. Of the many different things I paint, he probably likes my paintings of women best and wants to keep all of them for himself. I painted a small portrait for him to see before I committed to painting it on a larger scale as a gift for him for our upcoming 50th wedding anniversary.

Yes!

Yes!

 

I like to fill a canvas, edge to edge, which causes me to crop my images. When I first started taking drawing lessons from Duddy Fletcher at the DeCordova Museum School, she had us use view finders before beginning a new drawing. I do it to this day, whether I’m painting from life or a photograph. For the last year or so, I’ve taken to using my iPad when I’m painting from a photograph; the clarity of the images and the ability to enlarge and crop that enlargement makes it a great tool. It also allows you to flip images around, particularly if they’re square. When I do that to Yes!, it makes it a much more provocative painting. I’ll have what she’s having…photo-86

 

Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, et al

BFF'S

BFF’S

Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire

 

 

There’s something about pears for me…the shapes, the contours, the colors. Though I’d never turn down the chance to eat a sweet, juicy pear, I’m much more interested in them as subjects for still lifes.  And they’ve got that anthropomorphic thing going for me: I certainly see them as female–all those lovely torsos.  I painted BFF’s to celebrate the friendship between two women (I’m the taller one) and the Birds on a Wire are having a gossipy chat.

When I came across a poem about pears online, it inspired me to paint the pears that hang in my kitchen in Florida, so I  painted the first two lines of the poem in DaVinci script, directly on the painting:
Some say
it was a pear
Eve ate.
Why else the shape
of the womb,
or of the cello?
Some say it was a pear Eve ate...

Some say it was a pear Eve ate…

When I painted The Bartletts, a triptych of eight pears, I used pears I had spent some time selecting at our local fruit store as my models.  I very carefully wrapped them up and kept them at the back of my fruit drawer between painting classes, hoping to keep them from getting too ripe.  I was about half done with the painting when we went away away for the weekend, and as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I knew that our son had been at the house while we were away.  (He just left a light on in the den.)  I had no problem with that until I saw the note he left on the kitchen counter: “Mom, where did you get those pears?  They were awesome!”  He had eaten three of my models!  Don’t think it was so easy to replace them, either.  Who knew that no two pears are alike?

The Bartletts

The Bartletts