Month: May 2016

Just Dots

“A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” – 1884 Georges Seurat, oil on canvas, 81 in × 121 in, Art Institute of Chicago

One weekend, I decided to do a mom/daughter trip; to Chicago. Fun for me, and a taste of good art for my daughter. (Not to mention great restaurants and the Blue Man Group).

Of course, I had the art slot was the main draw for me, the exhibition using the Chicago Art Institute’s “La Grande Jatte“, to head the studies and history of the making of Seurat’s masterpiece. Being a light, bright work of substantial size, I figured it was interesting enough for a non-art teen.

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It was more than I expected, larger than life. Every prior study Seurat prepared was meticulous and a mind-boggling visual history of one painting. My daughter didn’t rush through, but studied every piece. She was doing the teen thing, trying not to gush, silently inspecting and reading as she moved along.

The huge “dots”, the successful pointillism of Seurat, is a masterful use of color theory and composition. The exhibition changed the outlook frIom a “pretty picture” to a jaw-dropping artistic, genius creation.

And for me, pointillism was not just a technique. When I started art school, my instructor challenged us students to create a painting using pointillism. Fun, I thought. I painted a still life in pointillism and considered it to be a simple assignment. Not so! My color theory was non-existent, the dots were the wrong size, and later I just painted over it so I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore.

Of course, I could have pursued the technique, to learn and refine my own version, but it was clearly not to be created by me. I still marvel when I think about that exhibition.

I never heard the word “bored” from my daughter. That in itself was a major achievement. I think she even preferred the exhibition to the Blue Man Group.

My Lady

Francisco de Goya, Spanish, Señora Sabasa Garcia, c. 1806/1811, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art

Years ago, my young daughter wanted to walk through our annual subdivision garage sales. I’m not a garage sale looker, but it could be a mother-daughter time, right?

So we walked around, nosed through stuff. I like to look, but I rarely find anything I can use. Even my daughter wasn’t buying.

At the end of the sub, I was doing my last sweeping look, and stopped my gaze on an item leaning against a box on the ground. It was a painting. About a foot tall, with a nice carved wood frame. A painting of a lady. A delicate complexion, tender mouth, deep dark eyes, a childlike chin, lovely curls of hair laying on her forehead, and a delicious diaphanous shawl about her arms.

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I didn’t recognize to which artist it belonged. I didn’t care, she was mesmerizing. I asked the homeowner the price. I think it was $35; I naturally tried to bargain it down, but no way. I hesitated, then handed the money to her. She was mine.

At home, I was about to hang the painting, in my bedroom, to welcome me every morning, with her beauty. I turned it around to examine the hanger; and found a sticker with the name “Francisco de Goya”. Goya. One of my favorite amazing artists. Of course. I almost hugged the painting, but it was too precious to risk any damage.

Of course, you’re wondering; was this the real thing, an original?

I never was that lucky. It was a very well done copy. But I didn’t have to insure it!

Some years later, we moved across the state. I had wrapped her so carefully, and put her in the car with me. I looked for a spot to hang the painting, and found a narrow wall next to the doorwall (or slider, as they say here). A bit dark, just enough not to fade it out.

If you’ve noticed, my artwork is far from Goya’s style. But then, this is now, that was then. And Goya was a master. I’m still working on it. And working.

That was the only time I found a treasure in a garage sale. Though maybe only to me. And my daughter? Nothing that day. But the next day, she shopped across the street at our neighbor’s sale. And ran into our house, excited. For a dollar, she purchased a 4-foot carnival-type teddy bear. And she hugged it tight, with the same look I had with my lady.

 

 

 

Light Enters

The first exhibit I attended in Chicago was a retrospective of Claude Monet. I wasn’t big on Impressionism at the time, but it sounded good. It was the first time I went on a trip by myself, and the first large exhibit I attended after graduating from college.

The line to go in to the Art Institute of Chicago had to be a half mile long. I don’t think tickets were available in advance back then. But I was there, and this was my main reason to come to Chicago. As I stood in line, a woman walked up to me and asked if I was by myself. I told her yes, and she handed me a free ticket to the exhibit!

And the happiness just kept coming. Of course, I was knocked over with Monet. I had no idea his series of Grainstacks and Rouen Cathedral was so extensive, portraying different light through the day. This was my first exposure to light, and what it can do. Just amazing. It wasn’t the Impressionists’ color palette, it was the gradations, the subtlety, evoking place and time.

From there, I experienced the wonder of light through Cezanne, Vermeer, Goya, and Caravaggio. Though I admired their light very much, and they still give me great joy to see, I did not fall into this glory in my own work. My work is not subtle.

The idea of series and use of studies comes and goes with me. A favorite series of mine is Rouen Cathedral at sunset, 1893, Musée Marmorean.

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The studies that Claude Monet made, in numbers and sizes could take a lifetime. Importance and planning became a necessary component to making a painting. Much work is done, even before a painting is started, in idea, color, and composition.

If light isn’t a big ingredient in my work, then how does the work of these artists hold value for me?

To see the wonders of art, the possibilities, offering ideas in creating art and suggesting more uses of ideas and expression. To see the world through the eyes of another person, place and time.