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The Harley Clarke Mansion situation on the lake by the lighthouse on Sheridan Road has been the home of the Evanston Art Center for decades.  The building is now for sale.  Location, location, location.  Rumor has it that James Pritzker wants to buy it and turn it into a hotel.  (The Pritzker family owns the Hyatt chain of hotels.)  The school will move to more efficient, spacious quarters, somewhere in Evanston.  When? Where?  Don’t know, don’t have any gossip on that.  But I know I’ll miss the view of the lake from my class room in 2 South.

http://www.chicagorealestatedaily.com/article/20121204/CRED03/121209948/james-pritzker-plans-hotel-at-evanston-mansion

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The lake has presented us with oceanic drama lately.  A student in my landscape painting class said, it’s like being on Cape Cod.

My little palm sized Sony does its best, but fails at recording the dramatic impact, the roar, the wind, the chill, the sheer excitement.  All I get is a composition.  Lines and texture.  I’ll take it.

Now look at these two versions.  I just flipped the photo horizontally in Photoshop.

Same information: two people walking on the beach.   But what a difference in mood!  Can you see that one is emotional and gloomy;  and the other tells an optimistic but shallow tale?

See also post August 14:  George Innes, “Going Home.”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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Naming a painting is always a bit troublesome to me and when I name my own work, I resort to chance to find a title. In this case, this painting by Kathleen Q., I would not want to be in charge of the naming department and Lake-Sky-Triangulation is merely a placeholder.  I don’t know what the artist/student will call it.

She finished it at home after a fellow student suggested that the triangles also sparkle in the lake.  More triangles also trickled down into the dune-and-grass part.  “Sparkle” and “trickle” are superficial, make-shiift, descriptive terms.  The artist herself thinks on a philosophical and poetic plane.

The painting, 16” x 16”, is riveting.  I’ll say no more and instead refer the reader back to posts 7.9.11 and 7.18.11 for discussions of the evolution of this work.

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We’re continuing the conversation started here in post 7.9.11, where the triangle as a repeated shape was evident in the photo with the high horizon;  that’s the photo with the artist sitting in the upper right quadrant of the frame.  Now, as the instructor in that painting class, I’m roaming over the Evanston Art Center grounds and its environs which spread over a length of about a quarter mile.  I see compositional possibilities all the time. (See the previous post, where waiting for the Purple line at Belmont got me all inspired.) 

The student/artist in this case remained loyal to one spot on the dunes by the lighthouse and instead of getting bored, she looked deeper and got deeper into a (for lack of a better term) meditative state.  Kathleen Q. was facing the lake, a bit of shore line, a chain link fence, sand, grasses and a vast sky.   That adds up to a lot of blue, some beige and some scruffy green. Among all the students who have looked at that in the past, she is the first to see…triangles.  The triangles were only on land, formed by the interaction of the fence, the sand paths and the patches of grass.  She decided to work with the triangle as a repeated motif for the land shapes.  I left her to make my rounds to see my other students painting the various views around the EAC.  When I came back to Kathleen on the dunes there, the whole canvas had become triangulated.  The sky, occupying more than half the canvas, had become crystalized as if by a kaleidoscope.  Brilliant.  The effect, of course, is abstract.  This is abstraction at its best:  it’s abstraction that comes out of a fresh new perception and the love of pure form.

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Here’s the story.  A woman with a straw hat sits on the reedy sand dunes and paints.  It’s a beautiful, tranquil scene in all three photos.  The information and the story are the same in all three, but the feeling changes from frame to frame.  What has changed is the point of view of the photographer, in this case me.  The point of view is synonymous with “feeling” or “interpretation.” This was not a deliberate sequence on my part.  The interpretive value of the photos emerged only later when I saw them next to one another.

The first two shots (above and right) convey information.

The third  frame (below) is more interesting, however. It goes beyond the story and the immediate empathy accompanied by the desire to be there.  It has an added dimension.  It holds our attention for several reasons:

1. The tension created by the placement of the figure high in the frame and to the right.

2. The dominance of the path leading up to her. This path takes up about a quarter of the picture’s surface!  It’s the “negative space” that carries a feeling of suspense.

3. The figure takes up 1/30 of the pictorial surface, but it’s her that we focus on because we want to empathize with her and are curious about her feelings.

4. The shapes of the grassy patches and sandy paths are triangles that point to the figure. The edge of the large block of grass on the right leads directly to her.

5. The high horizon lends gravitas and pessimism to the composition.

6. She is facing the lake, a feeling of openness and freedom, but at the same time there’s a rectilinear fence obstructing her view.

7. The story of the woman painting is bucolic, picturesque, and peaceful.  The composition says the opposite; it says, yes-but, it’s not so simple, it’s complicated.

In the next post I’ll focus on #s 4 and 5 and we’ll talk about the painting itself.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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