Friday, January 18, 2008

The Sensuous Paint Skin

One of my favorite painting teachers, Phyllis Bramson, had a great analogy for painters, by comparing the paint to human skin. When a painting is finished the paint layers all cure together to form a tactile paint surface. This surface, according to Bramson, can be compared to skin. It can be thick and palpable like a baby’s skin, or thin and transparent, like the skin of someone elderly. When I first heard this it confused me, because at that time I was a new mother. My son was only 2 years old, and his skin was very transparent, not thick and palpable. I could see veins on his face just below the skin’s surface. But, hey, it was a cool analogy, and I decided to stop trying to figure it out, and just use it.

So now when I paint I often take the time to just look at the applied paint, and think about how it makes me feel. Just the paint. Not the images, colors, composition…but just the paint. If it’s thick and textured it feels tactile or sensual. If applied thinly, then I want it to feel silky, soft, veiled, vaporous. While wandering in galleries looking at art, I will search out paintings that intrigue me. Maybe I like the colors, or imagery, and will walk up really close to it. When I get right up there nose to paint, I want to feel the paint. If it looks too thin and skimpy I lose interest.

Here in Santa Fe we are lucky enough to have a Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Her work is a perfect example of what I call “the sensuous paint skin”. (Please note that you can’t see the true nature of her painting surfaces in a photograph, only in person). In almost every oil painting of hers, there are two contrasting ways of handling the paint. Some areas are barely covered by a thin layer of paint, and you can still see the texture of the canvas coming through, while other areas use heavy impasto (brushy or knife applied texture) showing off her luscious brush strokes.

Just to clarify, there are thin applications of paint that I feel can still look sensuous. A powerful painting is created when the artist allows the medium itself to speak through the work. And what better way to let it speak then through it’s own physicality, by expressing itself through a tactile quality in the final surface.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Report from the 6th Florence Biennale 07

Having just returned from exhibiting at the 6th Florence Biennale in Italy, held December 1 – 9, 2007, I thought I would post some of my opinions. I found the caliber of work excellent, and the event first class. (Click here to see an example of my work on exhibit.) This was an unusual type of biennial art exhibition, in fact they reported this event as the largest artist supported biennial in the world. Other art events are more like art fairs which emphasize sales and resemble trade shows. And most biennials are curator driven – selecting only the work from artists who can substantiate a certain look or style that the curator wants to illuminate. For this (and past Florence Biennales) there were several curators involved in the selection process, who chose works of high quality, but left the range quite broad. This exhibition was unique in that the work was incredibly diverse, which makes sense considering there were over 800 artists, representing over 76 countries. Click here to read more about the Florence Biennale.