I completed the painting below fairly recently, reminiscent of a past visit to Tumacacori. This ancient pottery is in a structure at the mission there. This was based on photos I had taken when sightseeing there a few years ago. It is located South of Tucson.
This is the fruition of my thoughts about refugees coming to Ellis Island. The basic concept is prompted by the experience of my mother's mother traveling from Russia to America on a steamer in the early 1900's. She and her sister left their parents and other siblings behind, traveling with one small child on their backs, to escape from the danger of being Jewish in a land controlled by the Tzar and the Bolsheviks. Although they never saw their family again, they were encouraged by them to flee from Russia. they had to sneak by the guards, who often shot down the Jews trying to leave. Under those circumstances, they made it to a steamship packed with others like them traveling in steerage. Grandma Tillie had told us her story many years ago. I am grateful for her courage, and her desire to gain American citizenship and learn to speak English well.
Here are the Russian peasants preparing to leave their villages out of fear of destruction. They left with heavy hearts hoping to find new homes in distant lands.
Faced with a new model, one would expect to be inspired by the exploration and freshness of the moment. None of that happened for me. She seemed to dominate the space on my canvas, but not in a good way. I saw nothing pleasing taking shape there. After three hours I took her home, determined to obliterate her image with gesso painted over it, in preparation for starting some future piece of work on that same canvas. I turned her face to the wall at home. Over the next few days, new ideas started to flock to me. I began searching for imagery, textures, and ideas, to transform the model into someone new, in a setting that was foreign to me. How the harmonious scene played out must have come from my own feelings of happiness in my life, because I feel like it came together as a revelation, at which I was not present.
I had started a portrait of this model in the Independent Painters portrait sessions I attend. Having missed the first session the week before, I was playing catchup in the 3 hours that remained in the second session, working in acrylics. Coming back to my studio with my unfinished work, I tabled it for a while. In printing out my photos of the model that I took in class, I got the notion that I should try the piece in watercolor instead. I could somehow see it in my mind's eye sized up on a sheet of watercolor paper. And so I began, a couple of days later. I worked intensively on the full page drawing, 22"x30", and it appeared beautifully. When I began painting, a couple of days later, the work came together like a dream. I guess it was waiting to appear! 2 or 3 days later the piece was complete. I felt like I could breathe easy again!
"The Cloche Hat" is a painting I began in a portrait session a few weeks ago. The model arrived wearing a hat that reminded me of the period of time that the flapper image was all the rage. Although the model was in no way dressed like a flapper, I couldn't shake that connection in my own head.since I only worked from the sitter for 3 hours in class, I wasn't very excited about where the painting was going. Several times I thought of using gesso to delete what I had started.
Then the references relating to her hat kept gnawing away at me. Then I was doing my mental reference work...the Cotton Club, dancing at the Savoy, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Harlem's Rennaisance, the Apollo Theater, New York's brownstone houses, Mulberry Street, Broadway, and so on... Eventually I decided to focus on New York City in the 1920's. But what a good time I had taking that mental trip to arrive at where I did in my painting! Even the clothing in the painting became altered to make my character jive with the times. This is an acrylic painting using a slew of collaged elements to complete it. It's a mixed-media/Collage piece of work. I bet this woman is surprised to find herself back in time!
Completed two days ago, this painting absorbed me for the three hours I worked on it. When I stopped to clean my brushes at the end of the session, I realized that I liked what had transpired while I was lost in the painting process. A sense of human dignity appeared in this man who, I am aware, has had his struggles with survival in a less than friendly world. But what emerged had much to say about endurance, and the will to keep going against the odds. I knew that it was a finished painting as it was at that point. I had nothing else to say...and went away satisfied.
3 HOUR PORTRAIT
These two figure drawings were part of my day last Saturday. When I later reviewed my work accomplished in the 3 hour session, I was pleased to find the results pleased me. I enjoyed working on the black paper, pulling out white highlights. For me the model then feels like a piece of sculpture.