werkshop

works in progress

Monday, July 28, 2014

Paradise Lost

 .This is a daring painting for me, in a way, because a horse is a difficult animal for me to paint.  They figure a lot in art, and I've had a couple of memorable experiences with horses myself - one of them taking place high in an alpine valley - but mostly I've just not been around horses enough to feel comfortable painting them.  In the end, I just had to put a cat in the painting as well...
When I started this painting, I had in mind those iconic paintings of horses by late 18th century British painter George Stubbs...

http://www.alfred-sisley.org/painting-George%20Stubbs-Lustre%20hero%20by%20a%20Groom-45906.htm
Stubbs
I didn't see this particular Stubbs painting until I looked him up on the internet for this blog piece, but it was fun to see how close I had come to one of his paintings.  The groom and the horse seem to be talking to each other, and as I imagine it, pondering the nature of the relationship between human and animal.  It is a relationship that is often taken to represent evolution, civilization, human progress.  Our ability to bind and rule other animals is often thought of, it seems to me, as the mark of our superiority.  But a close relationship with an animal often seems to raise doubts in a human's mind.  How can this binding and manipulation of other species really be an indicator of progress, of some sort of elevated state of being?

Partly because of this question, romantic notions and ways of looking at the relationship between humans ans animals played in my imagination as I worked on this painting...

http://artgalleryartist.com/TheodoreGericaultPaintings/imagepages/image3.htm

Gericault
In this earlier state of my painting, the relationship between groom and horse seems to be not one of thoughtful relating and questioning, but of rebellion, with the horse seemingly alive with lightning, and about to pull away, from the self-absorbed groom who will probably be much surprised...
Such a romantic horse can also be thought of as representing an aspect of the human being that needs to be aroused from slumber.  Perhaps the human too is bound by the rope he holds, or by the invisible bonds of his social and economic role, signed also, perhaps, by the stripes on his shirt.

The horse always seems to have this dual meaning in art.  On one hand, horses represent our indomitable inner freedom as beings.  On the other hand, they represent the power that comes from rule - the ability to bind and manipulate others.  Here is a version by Leonardo (I think), based (I believe) on the ancient greek horses atop St. Mark's cathedral in Venice, which expresses both aspects - almost elemental power that is somehow invisibly restrained and bound...
Leonardo

In Boston there are several great equestrian statues in public spaces that have affected the way I have imagined horses.  Perhaps the best of these, and the one I was most familiar with, was outside the Boston Museum of Fine Arts...
Cyrus Dallin
This remains, for me, one of the greatest equestrian statues, because it turns away from the classical emphasis on the horse as symbol of imperial power, and even reverses this narrative.  The Native American Way was all but destroyed by the growing American imperium ('manifest destiny', or as we style it today, the 'exceptional nation'), but it persisted and (among other things) offered an alternative way of thinking about the relationship between humanity and nature, one based on harmony.  This rider seems to have let go of his control over the horse, only to find that he and horse are in harmony.  
Here the human character in my painting seems lost in his thoughts, and troubled, but his animal companions seem aware that an important moment may be passing.  Perhaps they will arouse this sleepwalking human from his dark reflections....


Saturday, July 26, 2014


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blue Mantle

It looks like this painting...
... is going to be a key piece in my show at The Venue in October.  When I started this painting, about a decade ago, my first thought was that it might be an icon of Saint Mary - I am a catholic lad, after all, and I come from a long line of artists that did work for churches, including icons.
The painting took on more personal experience when the face of the person wearing the traditional blue mantle started to look like my best friend and soulmate, and because I knew that she was someone who was very interested in the art of home-making - as something very real and very important in life, not as some kind of joke or pitiful excuse for doing nothing - I began to think about the iconic images of ancient Roman matrons.  As I see it, the iconography for images of Saint Mary traces back to these ancient Roman portraits...

This one is a closer match for my painting...
... while this one is a big softer ...
It's pretty clear, I think, that  Byzantine iconography for Saint Mary was a reinterpretation of Roman iconography  for the Roman Matron.  She was, basically, the idealized Roman Matron...



This, one of my favorite icons, is a little more intimate...
The look on Mary's face here reminds me a little of my Blue Mantle person, because it strikes me as both somewhat challenging and yet kind too...
The background colors of Blue Cloak  were influenced by the colors of pompeian style frescoes...





Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Sunday, June 8, 2014

stained glass forest

.
I like the steely blues of this painting.  Blue is such a traditional stained glass color.  
traditional stained glass

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Monday, May 27, 2013


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