A: Except for many hours spent in life-drawing classes and still life setups that I devised when I was learning my craft in the 1980s, I have always worked from photographs. My late husband, Bryan, would shoot 4” x 5” negatives of my elaborate “Domestic Threats” setups using his Toyo-Omega view camera. I rarely picked up a camera except when we were traveling. After Bryan was killed on 9/11, I inherited his extensive (film) camera collection – old Nikons, Leicas, Graphlex cameras, etc. – and needed to learn how to use them. Starting in 2002 I enrolled in a series of photography courses (about 10 over 4 years) at the International Center of Photography in New York. I learned how to use all of Bryan’s cameras and how to make my own big color prints in the darkroom.
Early on I discovered that the sense of composition, color, and form I had developed over many years as a painter translated well into photography. The camera was, and is, just another medium with which to express ideas. Pastel painting will always be my first love. However, pastel paintings take months of work, while photography offers instant gratification, especially with my current preferred camera, an iPad Pro.
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
In Amsterdam I saw a striking still life painted by Rembrandt van Rijn suspended above a glass case that contained the same objects that he used as a model for the picture. The contrast between what felt like a drab collection of random objects in the case and the stunning luminescent painting that seemed imbued with nothing less than intense energy and life gave me pause and clarified something I had been thinking about. I had been thinking about the power of art to transform the frustrations and irritations of daily life into a realm of grace and to embody, through arrangement, composition, light, color and shade, nothing less than the secret elixir of life itself.
We encounter daily frustrations, irritations, and obstacles. Perhaps we feel hampered and limited by our hit-and-miss upbringing, our apparent limitations and our imperfect ongoing circumstances. And yet Rembrandt’s still life painting demonstrates that it is within our power to transform the random, the everyday, the frustrating and the prosaic into an arrangement instilled with grace and poetry. Is it the arrangement of these objects that lends such a spiritual quality to the painting? Is it the sensation of light captured upon canvas? How did Rembrandt transform the quotidian into an uplifting vision of life?
Anne Bogart in What’s the Story: Essays about art, theater, and storytelling
A: A large pastel painting with the working title, “Stalemate.” For this one I went back and looked at some of my older 35 mm negatives. I selected one from 2002 and made the photographic print you see above, clipped to the left side of my easel. This piece is unusual because I’m painting the figures much larger than life size. I like what’s happening, but it’s slow going.
The title, “Stalemate,” is one I thought of some twenty-odd years ago, when I worked on a very different pastel painting – a table top still life – by that name. Somehow I couldn’t resolve some problems in the composition so I never finished it. I haven’t seen it in years, but it’s probably sitting in my Alexandria basement someplace.