Saturday, August 6, 2011

"ReCreation" show at Gallery 114

Last June I had my first one person show at my cooperative gallery, Gallery 114. It is a huge and beautiful space, so I had to work hard to fill it with new paintings! I was very happy with how it all looked, the turnout, and even made a few sales! Here is a sampling of what was showing there, and some background information about the images, how and why I painted them.

  "Crater" 40"x48" Acrylic on panel.
This was the largest painting in the show, and occupied a central position in it. This arresting image is based on a photograph taken by an army photographer on a Pacific Island during WWII. These soldiers are bathing, relaxing and washing their clothes in a bomb crater. Just behind the crater, a crashed Japanese fighter plane rests, its wings ripped from its body, tilting up at an extreme angle. The presence of destruction and restoration is presented in the same image. There is also a clever reference to classical nude paintings, such as Manet's "Luncheon on the Grass" Cezanne's "Large Bathers" and of course, "The Swimming Hole" by Thomas Eakins.

This painting has also been chosen to be a part of the All Oregon Art Annual, a statewide competition featured at the Oregon State Fair.
"Blur" 30"x40" Acrylic on panel.

This is a painting I worked very hard on for quite a long time. When I was finally “done” with it, I thought to myself, “Well, I’ve just made an albatross. No one will ever want this painting. It’s no good.” So I put it away and moved on. Several months later, I took it out again and thought, “Well, that’s not so bad, after all”. When I hung it up for this show, it turned out to be one of the most popular paintings there! Doing art is never predictable, always surprising, and I as the artist myself, am not always the best judge of my own work.

“Blur” is based on a snapshot from my stepfather's estate. I believe it is from the neighborhood he grew up in, Parkrose, Portland. A small boy scampers across a sunlit yard at near sunset. The photograph is taken peeping over a picket fence. The angle of the shot is so low it leads me to believe it was taken either by another child, or an adult who is stooped down, concealed behind the fence. The child is moving so fast his arms are blurred into oblivion. In fact, the child's shadow is sharper and crisper than the child himself, lending the shadow a stronger sense of reality and form; the boy is ghostly, his shadow is corporal.

"Firecracker" 30"x40" Acrylic on panel.
Based on a snapshot from the early 20th century, four young boys dash and leap away from a single spot on the pavement, where they have just lit a firecracker. The active movement the boys' bodies create is counter-acted by a very limited palette, only about 4 colors, plus white and black. 

 "Touch" 24"x36" Acrylic on panel.
  This is a snapshot of boys playing touch football at night. A flash lights up the scene like a lightning strike at the moment one boy touches the one carrying the football. If you’ll notice, the size of the “pigskin” is pretty huge compared to what is used today. This painting is done in a looser style than I usually use, to depict the movement and the lack of detail caused by the darkness.

"Please, Please, Sorry, Thank you"  30"x40" Acrylic on panel.
A very young girl with a yellow balloon laughs while riding a horse on a merry-go-round. The horse is brick red, and the sunlight is low and golden. I am captivated by the contrast of the girls happy face and the horrific expression of the horse, carved as if it were galloping and neighing furiously. A friend of mine pointed out that the horse seems more real than the girl. I love to create art that holds contradicting elements in a single, holistic image.

 "Precipice" 30"x40" Acrylic on panel.
Based on a snapshot from the 1950's, a gaggle of happy teenage girls wearing scarves cavort on a beautiful two-toned convertible. In the background the severe drop of a wooden rollercoaster can be seen. I really am excited by the juxtaposition of the light-hearted fun of the girls and the perilous angle of the carnival ride. I am also captivated by the way the angle of the ride is echoed the angle provided by the girls' heads.

 "The Heart Is Just a Muscle" 22"x28" Acrylic on panel.
This is another image that I am compelled to paint again and again. The most beguiling thing for me about this is the arrangement and movement of the objects and elements that make up the image; the women are standing in a circle, echoing the rotating movement of the ride. The gestures of the live children and inanimate horses creating diagonals that reinforce the rotation almost like a spiraling movement.

This image is based on a snapshot from my late stepfather's family. His mother is the woman hidden behind the woman in yellow. The women are presumably waiting for their children while they ride a merry-go-round, a very motherly duty. The women have curiously stern expressions, which, to me, is in distinct contrast to what we usually think of as motherly.

“The Early Universe” 30”x40”. Acrylic on panel.
It is amazing to me that this composition was created by a simple, accidental snapshot. Three boys consult with an adult in a uniform and peaked hat about their special bicycle, all decked out with wooly handlebar tassels, headlight and heavy, pinstriped fenders. The arrangement of the figures, the hose uncoiling across the grass, and the fact that the photo was taken close to the ground, makes for an arresting image. The subject matter demonstrates a combination of sweet nostalgia and the unsentimental world of children at play.

I attempt to accentuate the abstract shapes in the image by altering the colors of the grass slightly from space to space, and to create lay lines across the images, a la Charles Sheeler.