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My work has changed

These look best together. I photographed images from movies and media, and manipulated them in Photoshop. Then I created paintings from the changed images. I have an idea that our perceptions are false, and therefore when we look at people we see our false images of them. Movies, photographs and stories in the media all serve to cloud or blur our vision. Hence the blurriness of some of these, as well as the soft focus in others.

A new season

I am looking forward to the new art season, and I am honored to have been selected as a National Artist with the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, NY. From late May to late June of 2016, the National Artists will be exhibited in a group show at the gallery. When I lived in NY I visited the A.I.R. Gallery often, finding it inspirational. At that time, it was located in SoHo. It is the first all women, artist-run gallery. Read more about the gallery’s history and mission. In a time when women make up 60% of art students, but only 30% of the artists being shown in galleries and museums, it is as important as ever for women to have a place to share our art.

Figure composition (2) complete:

Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2015.
Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2015.


Advice for women

While listening to a wonderful lecture by Kenneth Bartlett, I found out about one of the most popular books of the Victorian era, and beyond, specifically addressed to women, that is Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management of 1861. I am enjoying reading it, and contrasting it visually with images I have been collecting of female (and some male) victims on crime shows such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The difference between the gentle guidance to women and the violence many women experience inside and outside the home are here depicted.

Two preliminary oil sketches:

Excerpt from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1) Excerpt from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (2)

From the sublime to the outrageous

On Wednesday of last week it was wonderful to learn that I was one of 22 people chosen for a NJ individual artist fellowship this year. In my work lately I have been focusing my attention on the evils of power, and wondering about the relationship of the victim to those victimized. When considering frontal lobotomies, it is easy to see that the villain is the neurosurgeon who performed them, while the victim is the mentally ill person. The patient shown here did not live at the time that the neurosurgeon James Watt aggressively performed lobotomies with Walter Freeman. However, if she did, she may very well have ended up with an ice pick in her eye. In our desire to cure or help those in pain, we are sometimes driven to extremes, which in hindsight appear despicable. Although even while Watts and Freeman performed lobotomies, critics called the operation crude and irresponsible. Jack Al-Hai’s book, The Lobotomist is engaging reading, and profoundly disturbing. I found myself exclaiming at points, not believing that these operations could be allowed, and for so long. There is also an enlightening transcript from An American Experience episode. It is interesting, but not surprising to note that when these doctors were performing frontal lobotomies predominantly on female patients, the majority of mentally ill patients in hospitals were male.

James W. Watts