There are new paintings in my studio but they are all still very unfinished. It’s been a long time since I’ve shown any images of my own work on this blog, so tonight I am posting a picture of one of my new paintings in progress…
I am what is around me.
Women understand this.
One is not duchess
A hundred yards from a carriage.
These, then are portraits:
A black vestibule;
A high bed sheltered by curtains.
These are merely instances.
–from my own tattered copy of Wallace Stevens, The Collected Poems, page 86
Vintage Books, New York, copyright 1982
One of the very first posts on this blog had a picture of two paintings I was making based on the same composition from a Matisse painting. I went to Helsinki and the paintings stayed behind, unfinished.
Since I have been home, I’ve been working on these paintings again. Yesterday I glazed the entire surface of one of the paintings with Gamblin Permanent Green Light, making it nearly impossible to look at, much less photograph.
I’m not quite finished, but I am posting some in progress detail shots and one sorry photo of the entire painting as it stands today.
As a disclaimer to those that have never seen any of my work in person, sometimes there is so much detail in my work that images of the overall painting completely fall flat. The work feels and looks miles apart from these pictures!
The point of this post is to show how drastically one of my paintings can change over time. The first detail is from a few weeks ago for contrast.
And here is the painting in its entirety (with a heavy glare from the wet oil paint). The painting is monochromatic now and it is green. However, it is an array of varying shades of green that simply don’t register at all with my camera.
Jessica, 2011, oil on panel, 7 x 5″
Yesterday I found an old scrap of paper with the heading, “Potential Painting Titles.” First on the list was the title of this post, Dolphins are the Hippies of the Ocean. There were lots of other gems, all poking fun at my innate proclivity for psychedelia. Clearly, I’m not fighting the urge right now.
I’m still working through a figurative phase. This little portrait is of my dear friend, fellow painter and the co-author of “Potential Painting Titles,” Jessica.
Since I have been home, I have started many and finished one quick alla prima oil painting (below).
The architecture in my painting is loosely based on the House of the Future at Disneyland. The house, which opened in 1957 and has since closed, offered visitors a glimpse of modern living in the synthetic future.
Over the past year or so, I have been interested in modernist architecture, especially the Case Study Houses (1945 – 1966). The goal of this experiment commissioned by John Entenza, the editor for Art & Architecture magazine, was to innovate and restructure modern living in post-war America. The leading architects of the time, including Eliel Saarinen and Charles Eames, were enlisted to create efficient, economic housing for Americans in the wake of the World War II.
It is a gross understatement that the middle of the twentieth century spurred tsunami-scale tides of change worldwide. Evidence of these dramatic departures from preexisting culture are naturally present in the arts, especially in the radical ideology of Modernism.
In architecture, Modernists like Finland’s Alvar Aalto believed quality of life improved in tandem with one’s surroundings; you conform to your environment, not the other way around. Envisioning the future for modernist architects was often reflected in shiny surfaces like glass and polished metals without ornament or extraneous embellishment–the aesthetics of a machine. In the words of one this movement’s pioneers, French architect Le Corbusier: houses should be “machine[s] for living in.”
The problem is that many people I know don’t want to live in a machine. People invariably pollute the purity of modernist design, and they know it. The hidden message in the failure of modernism for me is that the desire for perfection is both oppressive, but necessary.
Disneyland’s House of the Future is a comic solution to the modernism dilemma. The design and architecture have been bowdlerized and repackaged for their context. The House of the Future is a caricature of modernist design, an accessible yet entirely plastic version of the stark decadence of modernism.