"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Feb 11, 2011

Country Mice Go to New York

Although I have not missed the proximity of New York even once during the 13 years I have lived in rural Vermont, I do love my occasional forays each year back to what I consider to be MY CITY. We just spent four very busy days at our time-share at The Manhattan Club across the street from Carnegie Hall. My only art-related activity was the afternoon I spent by myself at the Metropolitan: a delicious time, on no one’s schedule but my own! I concentrated on the more modern and contemporary European Art, and found myself getting lost in the three Modigliani’s on display. I have loved this artist since I was in college, and he has never lost his appeal. I also spent a little time in the Egyptian Wing -- it seemed appropriate, given what is going on in that about-to-be-remade-land. As has happened before, I was completely blown away by the mummy with a very finely executed Fayoum portrait of a youth from Roman Egypt, ca. A.D. 80–100, just after Egypt became a part of the Roman world.

 It is an encaustic on a panel on limewood; his large, deep-set eyes and a down-turned mouth seem so sad, and could have been looking out from a TV screen today. But what really gets me is the naturalistic manner in which it is painted --it could have been done today, and in no way resembles the more common two-dimensional profile examples of Egyptian portrait or figure work from those early eras. In those, paint was laid on in flat washes, pigment by pigment, so that painters mixed as much of one color as they needed, painted in all the appropriate areas, and then moved on to another color, with most everything outlined with a fine brush in black. Clear and simple lines combined with simple shapes and flat areas of color helped to create a sense of order and balance in the familiar art of ancient Egypt, not terribly changed over a 3000 history. Ancient Egyptian artists used vertical and horizontal reference lines in order to maintain the correct proportions in their work, but political and religious, as well as artistic order, was also maintained in Egyptian art. In order to define the social hierarchy of a group, the sizes of the figures were drawn based not on perspective in relation to the artist but on relative importance. For instance, the Pharaoh would be drawn as the largest figure in a painting no matter where he was situated, and a greater God would be drawn larger than a lesser god. In some of these later funereal portraits, however, the technique is very contemporary. Colors are painted over one another in layers to obtain different color effects, and I am quite sure, MIXED. Long before realistic portrait painting developed in Europe in the Renaissance, Roman-Egyptian artists were doing striking likenesses in wax on limewood. I could not tear myself away from this one.

The Met
The four days in the city were peppered with other joys and things of beauty---the still-fresh Zefferelli production of La Boheme at the Met with two extraordinary singers we had never heard--- Maija Kovaleskaya as Mimi, and Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo . Once again the tragedy in the Latin Quarter with its soaring Puccini  music reduced me to tears! I never tire of the Starburst chandeliers there either--- when the lights dim in the housed, and  they start to move is like MAGIC!

 John’s subscription is usually shared with our daughter who is far more musical  than I, but now and again, I make the scene, usually for Verdi or Puccini!

Le Grenouille

We had a lovely belated anniversary dinner at Le Grenouille ,the last great bastion of old-style, formal, French dining left in New York with the closings of Lutece, La Caravelle, La Cote Basque and Le Cirque – giants! Each was famous for impeccable service, gorgeous interiors, and exquisite, Escoffier-based cooking served by armies of formally-attired waiters and their assistants gliding about the rooms overseen by a Maitre d' all of whom make you want to return again and again. It is all still possible at Le Grenouille with its gorgeous interior with extremely flattering peach-colored lighting (dating from its opening  50 years ago according to our waiter), and a justifiably famous display of astonishingly beautiful flowers. I found it to be a small refuge of restorative quiet and elegance in the midst of cacophonous and not always beautiful Manhattan. Needless to say, we had a lovely meal, and a lovely time.

Lily and the Alien
Lily and her picture

Our last day was spent with our younger granddaughter Lily, about to turn six. We had a birthday celebration including a children’s show Freckleface Strawberry, several kid-friendly restaurants, and a visit to the Planetarium and Museum of Natural History. Plus a sleepover with Gramma and Grampa. Who had more fun, Lily or us? She spent a lot of time drawing, and her mother, who has her MA in Art history and works in the education department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has told me that the teachers say she is artistically advanced for her age. Will she perhaps inherit her mother's love of, and grandmother’s profession of art? She made a picture of the alien at the restaurant Mars where we went Wednesday night, and gave it to him. She spent the night with us at the club, drawing away in the living room where her bed eventually was. We drove her home 
Lily creating her rendition of New York City, note statue of liberty,tugboat, taxi, balloon she got at restaurant.....

the next day, and then headed to Wellesley College where we rendezvoused with a very close friend from high school days, Sheila Malovany Chevallier, who is one of the new translators of Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex. She and her writing partner were on one of their speaking tours. Great to see her!! Here is a recent review from The New Yorker. 
newyorker.com/online/    And then the drive home to Vermont where a few more inches of new snow, and subzero weather greeted us..

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