This is a blog to encourage you to visit a wonderful exhibition of paintings by Sam Adoquei entitled "The Influence of Lincoln, Gandhi, and the American Experience. "
The exhibition is being held from February 14th through March 23rd
at the Union Square Studio/Gallery, 32 Union Square East, Suite 200, New York City.
Intended as a celebration of Martin Luther King, the exhibition has as one of its central pieces the painting, "The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King." That painting and other work can be previewed at www.samadoquei.com.As contemporary history paintings, Sam Adoquei's works well make the point about the important place of the artist in current society.
Yes, Sam is drawing on many classical influences from the past like Titian and Van Dyke but he is also doing work that is contemporary in its style and symbolism. He well fits Said's depiction:
Any style involves first of all the artist's connection to his or her own time, or historical period,
society, and antecedents: the aesthetic work, for all its irreducible individuality, is nevertheless
a part -- or paradoxically, not a part -- of the era in which it was produced and appeared.
(Edward S. Said, On Late Style, 2006)
Equally important, Sam Adoquei's canvases contain messages of hope for our future, our future in painting and in society.
It happens often in my studio. The color takes over. I fall desperately in love with the bright yellow and green lights that a silver spoon reflects. I am caught up in the pale blue and pink marks that I put on my canvas to represent a white tablecloth. And if it is a bunch of purple flowers I am painting, forget it, I can put down more kinds of luscious purples than you can imagine. I celebrate colors all over the surface I am working on. And then, thankfully, good sense returns. I remember the wise words of my teacher, Sam Adoquei. He said simply but firmly: "Suzanne, remember the grey."
The story dates back many years to an early Sunday morning in Sam's studio, in his atelier class. I was painting a still life. I was very engaged in all of the colors lit by the artificial light. Sam looked at my canvas, stood back, and told me I shouldn't paint one more thing until I understood more about grey. If I wanted to be a good colorist, I needed to appreciate and show the importance of grey. He told me to go look long and hard at Sorolla (that is Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, 1863-1923). He recommended Sorolla's painting at the Metropolitan, his Castle of San Servando, Toledo.
Ever the good student, I stopped painting. As Sam moved on to work with the next student, I gave my brushes a good wipe, and put them down. I said to Sam and my classmates, all more than a little surprised, that I would be back before the class ended. I picked up my coat and headed for the subway to the Metropolitan.
On the left is the painting that I found. Amazing. Sam was right, I learned a lot by looking at this work. I had always thought about Sorolla's paintings in terms of their bright colors, but there is actually a lot of grey here. And it is the grey that makes his wonderful colors sing. This painting teaches a good lesson about painting. I am also sure that it provides a wonderful metaphor for life. We all need more color, but we also need the grey that enables the color. The grey allows color to have the powerful effect it can have in the world.
Yesterday, we revisited the marvelous Sorolla paintings at the much too neglected Hispanic Society of America, on Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets in Manhattan. Their Sorolla room contains a panoramic series of 14 canvases by Spain's "painter of light." The room is filled with color supported and enhanced by grey. Here are some details from a few of the canvases.
Bill Cunningham, that wonderful chronicler of the city's fashion and spirit, recently spotted a marvelous Christmas display. At 302 West 12th Street in Manhattan, he found an amazing window filled with sets of old-fashioned Christmas vignettes. Click here and be totally charmed.
This is just a taste of what he found. So, if you are in or near the city, please pay this window a visit. Have a Merry Christmas.
Today, the day after our return to Rome from Sicily, was a big day for big art. It began in the Vatican Museums. They were remarkably without crowds. We stayed for a long time in the Sistine Chapel. We sat and looked, stood and looked, read and looked, and listened and looked. Michelangelo was quite a guy. That he could conceive of the images and stories in this room is outstanding, but then he went on to realize it all in paint. The ceiling and the large Judgement fresco behind the altar are glorious. No pictures were allowed so I can't share them here. If I could, I would want most to show the amazing movement he creates in the large Last Judgement. All is in a massive and compelling swirl.
Our next major stops(oh, there is so much to see here) were the rooms by Raphael. It's wonderful to think that while Michelangelo was in one room working, Raphael was in another. It would be splendid to know what they might have said to each other about their work. Photos were allowed here, but it was impossible to get more than a hint.
After all the painting, really big painting, that we tried to absorb while visiting Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Raphael's rooms, we came upon this little gem by Morandi. How lucky we are for all.
The Piazza Campidoglio
No wonder painters cannot resist the Forum
After a full day of touring
We had only a day before flight to Sicily but we used it well. These are just a few of the many pictures we took. We enjoyed wonderful warm weather and look forward to more of that in the south..
This is our first day in Italy. It is a brief stop in Rome before we leave tomorrow for our 14 days in Sicily
Happily, we return to this lovely neighborhood just east of the Villa Borghese for a full six days post Sicily. I love living amongst all these ochre walls and umbrella pines.
Yet another very nice feature of my second career as a painter is how it opens up what counts as work. Activities that are fun and amazingly rewarding that I once saw as outside of work are now an important part of work. When I was a psychologist researcher/university professor, a trip to the New York Botanical Garden to see gardens inspired by Monet's gardens at Giverny would have been a holiday, a day off. Now, it is part of my job description. In my painting work, such a visit teaches me some of the more I need to know about Impressionism and about the connection between gardens and painting. Today at the Botanical Garden is a day outside of the studio that helps what goes on in the studio. The Monet exhibit that includes two rarely seen paintings by Monet and some wonderful photographs of him in the garden closes soon. If you can't get there, check out the splendid website of the Garden for some great images relevant to Monet and his work in the garden and studio (click here for your visit.)
The summer exhibition at Hammertown gave me a chance to look at people while they looked at my work. At the two official "Visit with the Artist" sessions, I also got a chance to talk with people about the paintings. I want my work to be out in the world, to somehow make a difference. I need pay attention to what people say about what they see. Below are some of the ideas I shared with Hammertown visitors.
Portrait of Dorothy, Oil on linen 40" x 30"
Portraits through Objects
There were two paintings borrowed back from their owners for the show that I particularly wanted to talk about . Both of them are in the category of what I call "Portraits through Objects." Both paintings go beyond a simple depiction of what a person looks like. They include objects that mean special somethings to people as a way to tell stories about people.
In the case of the painting on the left, Portrait of Dorothy, we included objects that she collected over the course of her adult life. All of them tell something about who, how, and why Dorothy is as a person. The objects are pieces of jewelry, a map from Dorothy and her husband's antique map collection, and a 17th century Apostle Spoon from their British silver collection. Dorothy and I selected these objects from the many that she brought to my studio. For each object, Dorothy told me a story that taught me a lot about her, her life, and her family. Watching and listening as she told the stories, I made observations that would provide an important foundation for the painting. We selected objects that carried especially important meaning and that would also make for an effective composition. The story telling and selecting were critical parts of the collaboration that happens between a painter and a model. They helped me see beyond the surface. As viewers talk about the kind of person they see in the portrait, I hear them going beyond the surface.
Memory Painting for Jack and Rose, Oil on panel, 16" x 20"
The painting on the right, Memory Painting for Jack and Rose, uses the objects that belonged to people who are no longer with us. They convey something of who they were and what is remembered about them. I was commissioned to do this piece by Jack and Rose's niece, Beth. Beth now lives in Jack and Rose's lake house, a home that had been a special part of her childhood summers. The porch that she now enjoys is the one on which many parties were celebrated, over many years. She brought to my studio boxes of the objects that populated the porch. They were used by her aunt and uncle and their many guests. She told me stories about the card playing; her uncle's favorite books; the furniture, including the bar cart, that they collected; and the sheet music that her aunt used as she enjoyed playing the piano. Having known her aunt and uncle a bit, I felt that this arrangement of their things expressed something of the vitality, fun, and seriousness of their spirits. Knowing a bit about Beth's taste in art, I also borrowed a bit from Cezanne as I did the painting.
Other artists have worked with this 'Portraits through Objects" idea. A good example can be taken from the wonderful and not-to-be-missed Museum of the Hunt and of Nature, in the Marais section of Paris. A room-sized installation is an amazingly evocative portrait of Francois and Jacqueline Sommer, the husband and wife hunters and conservationists who were the great patrons of the museum. Mark Dion, the artist, recreated in the museum their hunting cabin and filled it with the couple's possessions: medals and other decorations Mr. Sommer received for his heroism in WWII, in the Free French Army; photographs that document the Sommer family's role in the history of aeronautics; an African reliquary given to the couple as a wedding present; books, including several on hunting and social issues; photographic equipment; many objects of art; furniture; travel souvenirs; smoking and drinking paraphenelia, etc. As you look into the room, it isn't hard to imagine that the lovers of nature and the woods have just gone off for a walk and would soon return. Again, their objects spoke for many dimensions of their lives. Interestingly -- showing all of the layers that a piece of art can involve, Dion's installation includes two other portraits of the Sommers by their close friend, Claude Lepape, from the 1960s. These are small paintings of Mr. Sommer's personal belongings that the painter considered especially emblematic of the husband's personality.
Painting allows one to rediscover the wonder of seemingly very simple things. These weeks in the studio, the joy is about fruit with leaves on it. Yes, I love painting fruits and vegetables of all sorts without leaves. But there is something very special about painting them when they have their leaves on. Sadly, coming by fruits so adorned is not easy. Not a leaf in site in the supermarkets I visit. Even at the Union Square Farmers' Market that I am blessed to be able to enjoy on the way to my city studio, most apples and pears have been separated from their leaves. Luckily, in Pine Plains, Northern Dutchess county, I have access to Farmers' Markets that are within walking distance of the orchards where the fruit are grown. The short trip from orchard to farm stand to my country studio means I can find and paint fruit with leaves still attached.
Now, you could ask me: "Suzanne, are the leaves really such a big deal?" My answer is "yes." Since the days of wall paintings in Pompeii and Herculaneum, painters have been painting fruit with leaves. And they continued over the centuries to paint leaves. Highlights are stunning fruits with leaves in the stll lifes or "kitchen paintings" of the 17th century Spanish painters, Cotan and Zubaran and the countless examples in Dutch still life genre paintings. For me, the one painting that better than all others makes the point that leaves are the way to go is Caravaggio's (1573-1610) Basket of Fruit.
Who can resist the amazing variety in the leaves? And isn't it wonderful how we know it has been a long time since some of these fruits have been picked because of the way Caravaggio has the leaves curl and even fold in on themselves? The fruit are clearly still and not going anywhere but the leaves look as if they might dance away. They bring an amazing energy to the painting. They also show us how good a painter Caravaggio was.