The first had to do with painting as a conversation with other painters: Painting may look like something one does alone, but the painter in the studio always draws on what others have done before. The second was my interest in doing portraits through objects -- painting people with and through objects that are meaningful to them. And finally, I wanted to say something about my transition to a life as a painter, a little on the career shift and journey from teaching psychology to making art.
Here are some notes on the first of those issues and some paintings that illustrate them.
I remember my teacher Sam Adoquei saying in a painting class that we needed to be very careful about the art that we looked at. Sam warned that when we are very involved in painting, we are like sponges. We absorb everything. Sam warned that if we looked too seriously at bad paintings, we would take them in and they would become part of what we put on our canvases.
On the other hand, if we looked as hard as we could at good paintings, we might take in something wonderful and be blessed with a visit from a very good painter on our own canvases. I like to think that all those hours spent looking at Manet's flower paintings and Sam's own marvelous still life paintings influenced my work in the current show, like the "Peonies and Iris" shown here. There is nothing better than returning to the studio in the morning and finding that an artist like Matisse or Gauguin or Nicholson had a go at one's work during the night.
For me, the image that best illustrates the idea of a painting as a conversation between two painters is this one called "Still Life Dialogue or Drinks with Morandi."
For a very long time, David had encouraged me to do a painting of a martini pitcher. But his suggestion just didn't click. Never clicked, that is, until that early morning when I entered the studio and spotted one of our martini pitchers high atop a bookcase. It sat right in front of a poster from the Morandi museum. The poster depicted one of Morandi's still lifes in which he included a pitcher and some smaller ceramic objects. I was captured by the way the tin pitcher in the Morandi painting appeared to be the shadow of our "real life" martini pitcher. The two pitchers seemed to be of a piece, naturally together, even though one was in a reproduction of a painting and the other was with us; and even though Morandi's was such a rough and rustic object, with nothing of the sleekness of the chrome martini object. That pairing and juxtaposition were enough to get me to put together a new still life with martini pitcher and poster. As I painted it, I loved moving back and forth between painting the objects I selected and painting a copy of Morandi's arrangement. It was an opportunity to understand his choices and question my own. We both worked hard. We both deserved a drink at the end of the process. Thank you David for your idea, and thank you Kay Deaux for bringing home the Morandi poster from the museum in Bologna.
In my story about how painters influence each other, William Nicholson needs to play a starring role. The still life canvases of this early twentieth century painter haunt my dreams and are an endless source of inspiration. He is an artist who has been unjustly overlooked. His painting of "The Lustre Bowl with Green Peas" stopped me in my tracks. I was amazed by the composition, color, and elegant mood of the piece.