This beauty stands looking out over the Hudson, west to Hoboken. It's along the pedestrian path in Battery Park. Running past it each day, I've had a chance to contemplate its beauty and presence. There's something about it that stirs me. It's not often you see a piece of contemporary sculpture that works this well, is done so beautifully, and is so theatrical, a bit classical, male and nude. I've grown to absolutely love it. On the same path, I've also had the chance, recently, to view and contemplate the Statue of Liberty, daily. It has dawned on me that a sculpture (or statue) of that size, erected in such a significant way, in such a significant place, has never been attempted again. It's truly singular. Why?
How futuristic, how sci-fi, how incredible would it be if a sculpture like this one (above), stood, like the Statue of Liberty does, in our harbor or in that of an emerging global city or country? I'm not sure of this piece's meaning, but somehow I feel like it fits our culture's ideals and best intentions - as well as echoing da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Would it be scary? Awe-inspiring? A la Ayn Rand?
Unintentionally, this painting is based on a composition that George Bellows used a few times . . . maybe more than a few. I first took note of the composition in a favorite Bellows painting called A Day in June (below). What a pleasure it was to see this painting in real time, and others like it, when it was recently shown in New York (December 07). The figures are gathered low, along the bottom of the picture plane, gathered in rhythmic intervals, layered one on top of another, subtle gestures moving, balanced and counter balanced. The activity continues, as well as multiple narratives, as your eye moves up the picture plane and the painted environment reaches deep into space. A heavy mass of foliage contains the figures and frames a New York building, which rises in the distance, peaking high through the trees. The central figure with her parasol stands, curiously, on the edge of the picture. almost along the pictures frame. She strikes a graceful and deliberate pose. Beautiful. I’m noticing now that the police officer in my painting mimics the feel and gesture of the woman in white. If so, it wasn’t intentional. Bellows brilliance is elusive. At times his work can feel crude . . . swipes and smudges, but ultimately it gives way to an overall integrity and subtly. His vigor and power is unmatched. I can imagine Bellows working, not unlike Jackson Pollack, attacking his composition, relying on rhythm, feeling, and color harmonies rather then refined technical passages. It’s described that Bellows was concerned with quantity and the quality take care of itself.
A DAY IN JUNE, BELLOWS
ANOTHER SIMILAR BELLOWS COMP. NOT SURE OF THE PAINTINGS TITLE
Working quickly, I used the neutral gray ground as the color of his shirt. It was actually gray as well. I also found myself intuitively pushing the color palette in a particular direction . . . cooler, grayer, or more neutral.
There have been a number of blessings, including people, who have helped me “get out of my own way”; including this site. The teaching style of W.M. Chase who promoted the practice of the premier coup (first strike) challenged the concepts I learned in my first few years of studying painting. Students in Chase’s class painted either from a still life or a model and completed a painting in one sitting. Perhaps two. Working directly, they might do a few paintings in one week of study. It’s reported that Chase demonstrated often and was amazing at executing a portrait, spontaneously, crackling with life, in one sitting. The premier coup, or oil sketch has become an important part of my work and happiness as a painter. I wouldn’t work exclusively in this manner, but it’s a great work out, stimulating a different set of painting muscles.
This weekend, Nancy (Stahl) and I sat in on a class at the Art Students League. For one, hanging out and talking with Nancy is a lot of fun. Working with here side by side feels great. By nature, she’s open-minded and supportive, which is a good painting medium . . . helps with fluidity. The model, whose name I’m forgetting was a skater. He was posed with his foot up on his board, leaning forward a bit on his knee. And as you can see he had more than a head full of hair . . . braids and dreads. The glasses came off and on as we progressed through the poses. And we all argued democratically on including or not including his glasses throughout the pose. Art, interesting models, a good friend, democracy, direct painting . . . ahhhhhh I could feel life boiling up inside me.
A friend of mine David Zeggart sent me this great reproduction on a George Bellows painting. It at the Spanierman Gallery in NYC. I think the gallery is on 58th between Park and Mad. But if your in the area and want to visit it. Check google maps, don't go by me.
Robert Henri, Isabel Bischoff, Fairfield Porter, Reginald Marsh, yada yada yada, all have sketchbooks posted on this site. Hope you check it out and enjoy. It's kinda like Drawger!
I'd like to recommend this show; Paul Manship and His Circle. Its at the Gerald Peters Gallery, 2 East 78th. 212 452 6600. Its around the corner from the Met, which also has a great show about Americans studying in Paris. Who ever runs this gallery is top notch and always seems to pull together the best shows. The last one I saw at the GPG was Robert Henri. Another awesome show. So, if your in that neighb, don't forget to stop in.
This next bit of text is lifted from a book on Matisse's "Jazz" portfolio. Included as well is the image that it accompanies. This quote interests me because it speaks to the nature of "starting out", the fever and freedom of creating ones identity, and being enlivened by the resistance we feel each time we take a step forward.
To derive happiness from ones self, from a good days work, from the clearing that it makes in the fog that surrounds us. To think that all those who have succeeded, as they look back on the difficulties of their start in life, exclaimed with conviction, “Those were the good days”! For most of them success has meant a prison, and the artist must never be a prisoner. Prisoner? An artist must never be a prisoner of even himself, a prisoner of a style, a prisoner of a reputation, a prisoner of a good fortune. Did not the Goncourt brothers tell us that Japanese artists of the great period changed their names several times in their lifetime? This pleases me: they wanted to safeguard their liberties.
I thought these two photos held an interesting comparison. They're both lit in a similar way but one was "staged" and the other occurred "naturally". I thought they both looked like golden age illustrations in the narrative, composition, and mood. As if Dean Cornwall or Meade Schaeffer painted them. They kind of feel painterly too!?