Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pain of Separation

Maddelena Peniterte by Donatello 
At the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy
white poplar wood, 1454-55

If you want to be emotionally shocked by a work of art,  have your conscience analyzed and cut short of breath you must visit the Duomo Gallery in Italy to see Donatello’s wooded sculpture of Mary Magdalene.  
  Donatello’s carving captures the result of sin upon an individual so well  that it commands viewers to look at sins obvious suffering.  Sculpted from a piece of wood with a feeling that it was brutally carved it can easily evoke feelings of revulsion in the viewer.  Mary Magdalene  a prostitute and follower of Jesus is depicted here as a shell of a human, destroyed by life itself.  Although she appears weak and emaciated she clearly possesses a unique strength of mind and body. Her right knee is bent as if she is about to take a step forward.  Her hands, almost prayer fashion, are close together in front of her, the fingertips barely touching, in a gesture of piety and repentance.  Her facial expression with its shallow eyes, parted parched lips and broken teeth evoke a sense of determination.  I can’t help but see her stepping forward to stand  before her Lord and Savior,  fearless of her day of judgement, as a woman who has bore the result of her sins with strength and hope.  She knows through her faith she will be exonerated.             
   The wood material Donatello chose to capture this emotional piece of art is a perfect fit for the feeling he was after. Wood once alive and now dead and  is resurrected.  The wood color retains its warmth unlike the coldness of stone.  The absorption properties of wood reminds me we absorb the pleasures of this world never taking the time to realize what the outcome can be upon ourselves and our eternal destiny.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Voyage of Self Recognition

Peter Doig born 1959
Oil on canvas "Echo Lake" 7.5' x 12'
This large canvas hangs at the end of a long gallery in the Tate Modern Museum in London

   I was emotionally struck by the strength this painting has in the gallery.  The painting evokes a tone of emotion that is quite alarming.  A man stands at the edge of a dirty body of water. A police car with flashing lights sits on the front edge of the parking lot.  The parking lot invades the tree line's natural surroundings, as does the tall lamp posts that artificially light the necessity of the urban appeal placed upon the rural water front.  I can't help but sense that something terribly wrong has occurred.  It frightens my imagination.  The man alone, at the water's edge is alarmed by some event.  His sense of terror is displayed by his feet partially in the water as if he's questioning whether he should enter the water.  A sense of alarm is portrayed by his hands on his ears in a pose reminiscent of Munch's painting of "The Scream."  His need for help is picked up in his water reflection of a crucifix.  What does he see, or not see, that alarms him so much?  Am I a witness as he is, or a casualty to some horrific event?  They say beautify is in the eye of the beholder.  This painting, with its horrific suggestions, is compelling to my senses.  I would conclude that this painting represents the fragility of humanity.

For those that haven't studied Peter Doig paintings I recommend that you image google his name.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Study: Composing a moment in time

A Native American Shield from the North Dakota Tribe "Arikara"
 around 1850 on view in Kansas City at  the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Native American collection at the the Nelson-Atkins Museum of art is outstanding and a must see.  Being a painter and a lover of painting I was inspired by their beautiful and powerful collection of Native American art. The painted bull on deer hide is a masterpiece of Plains Indians. 

   The relationship between the triangle head of the bull and the circular picture plane creates a powerful composition.  I feel like I'm witnessing the moment in time when the artist encounters this bull.   Two simple shapes, one within the other, compose this powerful image. The painter's use of a dark umber pigment on an off white deer hide simplifies the palette adding to the dramatic event unfolding.  This painting is compelling because of the angular movement of the bull entering the picture plane from above.  The gesture of leg and hoof move toward the center of the picture, capturing the moment when the upright bull buffalo, with his direct unwavering gaze, encounters you the viewer.  How a simple triangle in a circle can move a viewer is beyond my rational understanding.