In various stages.
I am challenging myself to create group portraits. It is a continuation of expressing the notion that that those who are prisoners, whether criminals or victims are connected to us and we to them. I did some drawings of groups when I was exploring images of my father as a child during World War II. These drawings led me back to the whole painting surface, as I am using negative and positive space to bring the picture into harmony. This was influenced by a talk I gave at the George School, when I spoke of how I was breaking the rule I learned in school of covering the whole canvas with paint. I rejected this in my series of fighters; now I am returning to it. My reading of the finely researched and brilliantly written David Park: a painter’s life by Nancy Boas also contributed to my thoughts about this painting. Park is my role model because of his ability to convey the universality of people. He did it with amazing technique, energy and integrity.
The past in the present. The present seen more powerfully and clearly through the past. Archives have long been controlled by the anointed few, and used by scholars who had the inclination to view their contents. With the advent of digitization, many archives have been opened to anyone with a computer and access to the internet. Personal pictorial archives can also be found on blogs, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram, among other sites. In my series of painted portraits of Olympic Club fighters, taken from a photo album found in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of Princeton University, I began the exploration of a particular photographic archive of mostly anonymous athletes. Their faces are a vocabulary I read and interpreted through the application of paint on canvas. To communicate emotions, I roughly built up the surface of the paint, and created color combinations that were jarring to the eye. I used dripping and rapid brushwork to create movement. Through these painterly procedures I was symbolically bridging the gap between past and present. With my recent portraits painted from photographs from public and private collections I am continuing my desire to connect the present to the past while adding my imagery to the flourishing archives of today.
First and foremost, Dix is a powerfully expressive artist. Etching is the medium that most successfully expresses the suffering and cruelty he experienced firsthand during World War I. When he began to depict the superficiality of society after the horrors of the war, the painting medium did not do his imagination justice. Although a successful portraitist, his works in oil and tempera, perhaps handcuffed by the new objectivity, tend to be more mannered and less powerful than his graphic work. Although he ridiculed the academic style of painting, he seemed to absorb it, and most often, was not willing to experiment with, or subvert it, as he did with his drawings and etchings.
Before I was beaten over the head by the war etchings, I enjoyed eating at Cafe Sabarsky. The food was not overwhelming, but I savored my time there. The coffee was brilliant, and the surroundings, dignified.
My walk uptown from the Port Authority Bus Terminal allowed me time to enjoy the sounds of the city: cars and buses whooshing past, peoples’ exotic accents, and bits of conversations. Because it was fairly early, the city wasn’t quite alive yet, so I also had moments of silence when I could delight in a lovely breeze on my neck and face.
Perhaps due to the subject of Dix’s work, and the later, inevitable overcrowding I felt walking back to the Terminal, I was eager to return home. As Dix knew, the world is a lonely and corrupt place. Home and loved ones are sanctuaries. The bus ride home was not as warm and fuzzy as the ride in, when the driver stopped at the ticketing agency to allow new passengers to purchase their tickets for much less than they would have if bought directly from him: an everyday act of loving-kindness. Two drawings from my day:
I have set a new goal for myself today. Beginning Monday, I am going to make a painting each day for 14 days. The time seems right for it, as in these last days of summer, work is slower than usual. This morning, I made sketches of each painting. Once I start painting, the imagery may change. Sammie has begun to be a lap dog. She jumped on my lap while I was sitting on the front porch this morning. Of course, I had to include that in a few of these sketches. To motivate me further, I am going to schlep into New York early on Sunday to see the Otto Dix exhibition at the Neue Galerie before it ends. The cafe there has a Marzipan-Guglhupf which is a marzipan cake. ON the menu, it has an asterisk next to it, which means it is served with whipped cream. I can’t wait! Other exciting news: Marijke may be able to help us when we pick up the Baby Reliance in New York. That is a work in progress, as I am waiting for the inventory sheet from Mr. McCrea. But I have the feeling that it won’t be long before I will be printing linocuts and woodcuts galore…Maryanne just told me I can’t shirk my responsibilities around the home, so I will be supergirl, and get everything done.