Worked on this painting again today, while listening to a professor discuss Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. It is painful to watch my mother get older, and only after listening to the discussion of Proust did I have a greater understanding of what I am feeling.
I am reading a wonderful book about Soutine by Andrew Forge. In it the author writes the following about Soutine’s painting: Again and again we are left with sensations and paint and sensations-in-paint. He is like a man painting out of darkness, filling his dark world with things and people. Nothing is interchangeable, nothing is carried over from one thing to the next: he can paint a dozen turkeys and each picture is like the first discovery of a turkey. … His handling of it must be naive, bringing nothing from the past of skill or knowledge or practice; it also has to be virtuoso, allowing no reconsiderations and no backward glances.
With the busyness of life I sometimes forget how important this is. Images I see, and then must paint, remind me.
When I visited a gallery owner two years ago, he asked me why I didn’t paint people who were personally close to me. At the time, I said that history is important to me. But while painting Fighter A351 I began to feel bored. I have been influenced by the Buddhist Center in town, and my readings; I think I am ready to see myself in those closest to me. While painting my grandmother Rae, my mother’s mother, I saw my mother, my sister, my aunt and uncle, and myself. I worked from three different images of my grandmother. I chose the one from the 1960’s for the hairstyle. How was she able to balance that on her head? Memories came back to me of the fried chicken under heat lamps at the Woolworth’s on Lincoln Road in Miami where she took me as a child, as well as the beaded curtains she made for her Florida apartment. From the stories my mother told I have gathered that Rae was a wild one. My first version of her contains a worry line on her forehead but as I thought more about her I couldn’t remember her worrying much.
What must it have felt like to be put on display at such a young age? ‘Used’ is the first word that comes to mind. But I wonder also about what the viewer felt, and feels when seeing a person on display for their amusement. Each time I paint Annie Jones, I think of Manet’s images of Spanish-themed portraits. So this painting has in it some of the colors that I think Manet might have used, as well as the flattening of volume. This is Annie Jones up close: