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Archive for March, 2015

WhiteGreekKey

There are more of them on the left and you know there are more on the right. We just happen to glimpse these as they file by. I call them rectangles, but they may just as well be thoughts. They are as random, inexplicable and yet engaging as thoughts that pop into our minds. As blunt, rude, beguiling, mysterious. Just there. Now-you-see-them-now-you-don’t. And they overlap in a gauzy haze. One thing leads to another. Well, forget this chatter. It’s just what comes to mind.
The whole class stood around and looked. The painting is stunning. That’s the highest compliment. It says, stop the chatter and look.

Painting by Maria Palacios, acrylic on canvas, ~30″x 40″
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SixNudesSpring15
These are six one-minute poses. I work on gloss paper with a water-soluble pencil. Later (hours or days later), I like to take out the drawing and spend some time clarifying certain anatomical features, especially hands, and then giving the space between the figures some depth, very often blurring contours with a shred of damp paper towel. I’ve done this many times before with these pages of one-minute poses. I like the way the figures appear to emerge from and disappear into a mysterious atmosphere, as sort of mist. But today, on a whim, I flipped the drawing horizontally (in Photoshop)and this allowed me to see something new. Yes, they were appearing and disappearing in

SixNudesSpring15Flip

this mist, but now for the first time I saw how stressed these bodies are. They seem to be struggling. Their environment, this “mist,” seems to be grating against them. I didn’t see this in my original drawing.  Now that I’ve seen it in the left-right flip, I can also see it in the original.
I’m reminded of Giacometti’s drawings, whose figures are as brittle as their unaccommodating environment. In the sculptures, the environment has worn them down to a mere determined, persevering existence.

Giacometti1
In my drawing, the poses themselves may be exceptionally torqued and therefore they’ve inspired this existentialist interpretation. I’ll try to be on the lookout in future drawings. In any case, the Giacometti3left-right flip has once again demonstrated its usefulness.
Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966.
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15Jan1

Look at this. What a mess, you say. One color blotch after another, no repetition of forms, no pattern, no order of any kind.
15Jan1GoldenSecLook again. There’s a black vertical line right in the middle(yellow arrows) If you draw a horizontal line through its top end, you get a golden section (green). If you draw a line through the bottom end point of the black line, you get a golden section (purple). You have to be pretty desperate to find some structure here to do this exercise and you have to be fond of the golden section. I happen to enjoy looking for structure and I’m besotted with the golden section. But that’s all I can come up with here.
Now, aside from the hunt for the golden section, reconsider the mess. Look yet again. If you look closely, if you zoom in, you can find exquisite passages. Here are some. Imagine each as a new painting.——————————————————————————

15Jan1B15Jan1C

 

 

 

 

15Jan1E15Jan1F

 

 

 

 

 

——–
The painting as a whole was incomprehensible and hard to look at—as a whole. But it consists of potential paintings that are quite dynamic and, at the same time, orderly.
Painting by Bruce Boyer, oil on canvas, 40” x 30”
15Jan1GAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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15JanBlueDiscAPrimary colors are pleasing. Look: red, blue and yellow. Plus two secondaries, orange and green. Plus black and white. This is a pleasing painting. The colors are luminous and the composition is stable and orderly. What more could you want!?
Well, you might want some chaos to liven things up a bit, because our experience of life is, dare I say it, a bit chaotic. Our rationality only covers so much territory in our inner lives. If you think chaos belongs to a truthful look at life, painting may be your medium. Paint welcomes chaos. Dip the brush into some paint on your palette and whoosh. Chaos comin’ right up, sir.

15FebBlueDiskB
This is exiting to look at, way beyond just pleasant. Notice how things overlap and fade. Notice how your eye is constantly moving through this thing.  You cannot rest any where, even though you can see that the underlying structure is rectilinear and stable.

The painting appears to have multiple layers, but actually it only has four. The top layer consists of two rectangles, neatly outlined: one black and one smaller one in yellow. These two rectangles cover very little surface, but isn’t it uncanny how they contribute to the illusion of depth in the painting?
Painting by Bruce Boyer, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”
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MillstoneCWhat could possibly be the appeal of this garment? Granted, this is an ad and therefore an exaggeration, but the overwrought tube scarf that was in fashion this past winter invites an interpretation. During these cold months we saw and still see women weighed down by these bulky catenating knits as if they were making a statement. What might be the intended statement? We can rule out the need to keep warm, because these things, more often than not, are cascating down and away from the neck. It couldn’t have been about money, too cheap. It couldn’t have been about knitting as an appealingly feminine activity, too old-fashioned an idea. It couldn’t have been considered attractive, in the sexy sense, since these things bulge up and turn the female torso into a barrel.
All I could think of when I encountered these tube scarves (their actual name) on public transportation and in museums was the Millstone Collar, a fashion rage in the sixteen hundreds. We see them in the IMG_4955portraits by Rembrandt, Hals and many other Dutch painters of the early seventeenth century. Jane Hollander in her study of fashion, “Seeing Through Clothes,” doesn’t go near the Millstone Collar. She talks extensively about the use of black in fashion over the centuries—and the Dutch were big on black—but the Millstone Collar? Doesn’t mention it.
It’s such a peculiar, extreme, impractical thing to have put around your neck, that I’ve amused myself with some theories of my own.
The Millstone Collar was so named because it looked like a millstone. But it couldn’t have weighed anything. It was made of very fine linen that was starched to high heaven and pleated mercilessly. It must have been expensive. Also, scratchy and uncomfortable. You couldn’t possibly do anything but sit while wearing this thing. If you wanted to get to your chair, I can imagine you had to be guided by someone because without holding someone’s hand you risked tripping. You couldn’t see your feet or where you were stepping!
Because of the danger it posed to an ambulatory wearer, I think the Millstone Collar was only worn when you were posing for a portrait. But why would you want to be portrayed this way? Here’s my theory. The collar looked like a platter. The collar created the illusion that your head was resting on a platter. Your head appeared to be disconnected from your body. It existed on a different plane. An image that MillstoneBpresented the separation of body and head/mind/soul would have appealed to you if you, as a member of the reformed church , had been taught to rise above your dirty body and its desires. You wanted to be portrayed with your head in a loftier realm—on a platter, resting on the Millstone Collar.
We sometimes use the expression “a millstone around my neck” when we talk about a great, onerous burden. The tube scarf looks like a burden more than anything else. Women seem to be encumbered, weighed down by these things. Maybe that’s the answer. There’s a lot of talk in our media and around kitchen tables about women multi-tasking, doing it all, having too many obligations. The millstone/tube scarf may just possibly feel right to many women because it symbolizes their plight.
Draped like that over your sternum, the tube scarf certainly doesn’t keep your neck warm. And MillstoneAyou can’t see where you’re stepping, just like the 17th century Dutch with their itchy Millstone Collars.

For images of real millstones, see https://www.google.com/search?q=millstone&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=sL8UVbiwO4qQsQT6poLADQ&ved=0CDIQsAQ&biw=1398&bih=1066
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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TwoStudies
If I’d wanted to, I could have made an academically correct drawing with the proportions of the figure corresponding to what I actually saw. But I chose not to. More often than not, I choose to distort a little, trading anatomical correctness for statuesque drama. In this pose, about twelve minutes, I dramatized the figure to make it look as if seen from below, like a statue on a pedestal. The feet are big and the head is small. In other words, I foreshortened the figure. Why? It’s fun to see if you can achieve a certain effect by breaking the academic rules.
Then, during a seated pose, I got fascinated by the hands and the neck. I zoomed in for anatomical correctness. I repented, ha.
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DripWeave
How can drips feel energetic?! It’s all down, down. That’s true, but if the format of the painting is vertical, that verticality in itself conveys energy. Like a person standing up.
Compare the vertical format to the horizontal. Here’s a horizontal passage from the painting. Same drips, but the feeling is not energetic. The horizontal format is restful and the drips lack energy.

DripWeavecrop
Another view would be the following, where the drip lines are horizontal. Horizontal lines are inherently more restful, like a person lying down. You can see that this view is more restful than the original.

DripWeaveHorizontal
Now go back to the original at the top. The drips are like a torrent, stormy and very energetic, indeed.
Painting by Keren Vishny, acrylic on canvas, 40”x30”
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