L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another preview of May....

Still Life I - Wine Glass and Diary - acrylic on panel - 16x16 - 2015

There are "objects" in many of my paintings - fans, furniture, objets d'art, jewelry, toilet articles, etc. - but never once have I done a straightforward still-life. In preparing my upcoming show, I thought I'd give that a try, just for the hell of it, eh? And I have to say, working on these two little still-lifes was the most fun I've had painting in years. Unlike my usual pattern of having to force myself to sit down and start painting, I just couldn't wait to get back to these, each and every day I was working on them. There was some strange kind of joy I found in just describing the shape and color and texture of the different materials.

One of the dwindling number of hand-blown Hungarian - or was it Rumanian?... Bulgarian...? - glasses
which I've had since the early Eighties, purchased not long after I moved out to live on my own.
The back side of my grandmother's diary from 1930-32, when she was finishing high school and starting college.
I bought G the Chinese brass Feng Shui "lucky gourd" - Wu Lou or Hu Lu - in an import store a few years back.
This little glass ball has a silvery, iridescent surface; I love how the light shines through red,
anyway. It was salvaged from an otherwise very ugly hummingbird feeder that was briefly in
my possession. (And which, apparently, I cannot quite admit to having purchased.)

Unlike some, I don't believe there's any correlation between ultimately successful art and the artist's experience while making it, whether they suffered to accomplish what they did or loved every second of it. And I don't know how the "art-buying public" will respond to what I've come up with. They might just think these paintings are rather boring, too "standard", being devoid of the content - story - that my work usually has. But I'm rather thrilled that, regardless of the outcome, just this once I was really able to find great pleasure and satisfaction in the process.

Still Life II - Lemon and Turtle - acrylic on panel - 12x12 - 2015.
The Chinese dish, the pottery, and the float all came to me from my dear Grandmother Betty.
I bought the little porcelain turtle in the gift shop of Portland's Chinese Garden, while I was visiting with my grandmother.
It's supposed to bring good luck, and is meant to be carried about in one's pocket.
The scan doesn't do full justice to the interplay of blues and greens in the various objects - the pottery, the inside of the bowl, the float,
the reflection of color onto the underside of the lemon - nor to the warmth of the lemon's color.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another preview in lieu of an actual post; or, a painting entitled "Stevie"

The end is near. And that's quite a good thing.

Just finishing up the last pieces for my May show at Froelick Gallery here in Portland. (Note that there are five more pieces that aren't up on their website yet.) Since I can't really focus on anything else right now, here's another preview for that show:

Stevie - acrylic on panel - 36x24 - 2015

Here is my artist statement relevant to this body of work:

Twenty years ago – to the month – I began my career as a professional artist. I almost began it by accident. I had never gone to art school, I had no slides of my work – I hardly had any work. But at the suggestions of friends – also artists – I made an appointment and went to talk with Victoria Frey, a major figure in the Portland art scene and the owner of Quartersaw Gallery. I was hoping for advice, hoping to get some idea about what I might need to try and get my work into a gallery. Instead, she looked at my work briefly and asked if I'd like to have a show.

So, May of 1995 marked my first exhibition. Five years later, when Quartersaw closed, I was picked up by Froelick Gallery - which had also started out in 1995 – and I've happily been with Charles and the gallery for fifteen years now.

My first exhibited work couldn't be more different from the work I've done for the last several years. Tiny pen and ink drawings, explorations of childhood trauma, they were stylistically graphic and psychologically intense. At the time, I was also heavily influenced by the Hispanic culture I'd been so enamored of in my years in Los Angeles; the drawings were rather Frida Kahlo-esque, honestly. But, pretty soon, I started to include paintings in my shows – I'd always been a painter, primarily – and the work kept changing, growing toward something else. The change happened quite organically. I just did what I wanted to do next, wherever my interest took me. Through the years, as I gained in confidence and developed my skills, I settled into the themes and influences that my work is now best known for: gender reversal; the use of the portrait historié; sexuality; humor; historicism, usually with a strong late eighteenth-century French aesthetic.

At this point in my career – this personal landmark - I thought it would be interesting to look back to earlier work, to see what might still speak to me, and to allow myself to be inspired by some of those earlier themes. As an example of that, this show includes paintings of myself as a child; one is even a version of a piece from that very first exhibition in 1995. In the other paintings here there is, of course, much evidence of the themes that have been a constant in my work: historicism, gender, humor, the male nude, mythology. But I also wanted to look at what I hadn't ever really done - still-lifes, for instance – and see what I might make of that as well. So in several different ways, this body of work is a looking back and a looking forward, a return and a departure. 


And the image I based the painting on. Photo credit: my mommy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Last minute post / preview of May

Detail of below.

I'm just finishing up my May show for Froelick Gallery. May, as in that month that begins next week...? It's a very ambitious body of work. And it would be ambitious if only for the number of paintings I'm delivering. My very first exhibition was in May of 1995, which makes next month the twentieth anniversary of my professional career. So, to commemorate that milestone, I've done (will have done) twenty paintings - which is about twice the number I usually deliver for a show. I've been so busy that I've had to scale back my blog posts to only twice a week. And this morning I realized I hadn't scheduled one at all for today.

So, to catch up, here's a very small preview of my upcoming show. People frequently comment on the animals I very often include in my work, so I thought I'd just let a couple of them get all the attention this time. And to give them the full treatment, I've designed for them little objects dans le style Fabergé.

The Costly Lorgnette - acrylic on panel - 12x12 - 2015
A Precious Egg - acrylic on panel - 12x12 - 2015
Detail of above.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Astaire and Rogers in Never Gonna Dance, from Swing Time, 1936

Song by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields; Choreography by Astaire and Hermes Pan; Set design by John Harkrider; Rogers' gown by Bernard Newman.

It's hard to believe that I've never done a post on this particular topic, the scene and dance generally regarded as the pinnacle of the Astaire and Rogers pairing. (And the set, with its twinkling, starry "sky", and Ginger's gown - which moves so beautifully that it actually becomes a key choreographic element - greatly support its ascent.) If you've never seen it, see it. If you have seen it - even seen it innumerable times, as I have - you know that there's no adequate way to describe or sufficiently applaud it. Only to acknowledge that, through an alchemy of pictorial design, music, and movement, a long length of celluloid film was produced - unspooling, a bit more than eight minutes in recorded time - that will forever continue to transfigure our dreaming.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in period costume, oil sketch by Winterhalter, 1851

The royal pair, wearing costumes of the Charles II period, are dressed for the "Stuart Ball" which was held in the throne room of Buckingham Palace the 13th of June, 1851. (The throne room was used as the palace's ballroom until the addition of the new ballroom which was completed five years later.) The French artist Eugène Lami designed the Queen's gown, which she later described in her famous journal:

"... My costume was of grey moiré antique, ornamented with gold lace, - a very long waist & sleeves trimmed with old lace. The petticoat showing under the dress which was all open in front, was of rich gold and silver brocade (Indian manufacture) richly trimmed with silver lace... In my hair I wore an arrangement of pearls. The shoes and gloves were embroidered to match the dress."

Lami, known for his frothy watercolor depictions of frothy royal events, left us this commemorative view of the scene.
The Queen and Prince Albert. (Detail of above.)

The Queen's gown, though rather faded and tarnished, and perhaps missing some of its elements, still survives.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Two pastel portrait drawings by Winold Reiss

Isamu Noguchi, circa 1929. (Detail of below.)

The beautiful, brilliant young sculptor at twenty-four. The beautiful, brilliant young poet at twenty-three.  I love these two portraits, both of them a wonderful balance of graphic delicacy and compositional drama, a blending of a cool, classical refinement and the vivid spirit of "The Jazz Age".

Langston Hughes, 1925.


F. Winold Reiss (16 September 1886, Karlsruhe – 23 August 1953, New York City), German-born American artist, graphic designer, and interior designer; he is best known for his portraiture. He was born the second son of Fritz Reiss, a well-known artist of landscape and peasant scenes. In his youth, Reiss traveled in Germany with his father who was intent on studying peasants of particular types, an activity and a nearly ethnographical interest which would inform the son's own future artistic sensibilities. Reiss later went to Munich where he attended both the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied with Franz von Stuck, and the School of Applied Arts. In 1913 he emigrated to America, settling in New York City, where he quickly became known for his colorful graphic designs and for his commercial interiors.

Reiss was incredibly inspired by America's great ethnic diversity, and he is most remembered for his sensitive and objective portrayals of Native Americans, African Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities. Living in New York, he was a witness to the Harlem Renaissance and portrayed many of its leading figures, and he traveled around the country and in Mexico, his work celebrating ordinary and often marginalized people. He was perhaps most drawn to Native Americans, especially the Blackfoot; he made more than two-hundred and fifty portraits of Native people. When he died at the age of sixty-six, he was cremated and his ashes were spread by the Blackfoot along the eastern edge of Glacier National Park.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jacques de Goyon III, sire de Matignon, comte de Thorigny, portrait by Henri Gascar, circa 1660s

This painting, formerly in the collection of King Louis Philippe, was auctioned in 2006 in New York by Sotheby's, who published the following information:

As is often the case for pictures from the collection of King Louis-Philippe (reigned 1830-1848), the reverse of the canvas bears his distinctive monogram stamp and extensive text identifying the sitter.  The present picture, however, has received two such identifications.  A first inscription, which has been crossed out, reads:Charles Auguste Goyon de Matignon, Comte de Gacé, Maréchal de France, 6º fils de François de Matignon, Comte de Thorigny & de Gacé & de Anne Malon de Bercy, né le 28 Mai 1647, marié à Paris le 8 Avril 1681 à Marie Elisabeth Berthelot, mort à Paris le 6 Décembre 1729.

The second inscription, located above the aforementioned one, reads:
Jacques Goyon III, Sire de Matignon, Comte de Thorigny.
Baron de St Lô, 5º fils de François de Matignon& de Anne Malon de Bercy./  Né à Thorigny le 28 Mai 1644./  Chevalier des Ordres du Roi en 1693./  Marié en 1675 à sa nièce Charlotte de Matignon, fille de Henri de Matignon, et de Marie Françoise le Tellier./  Mort à Paris le 14 Janvier 1725.

Jacques Goyon III, whose biographical information is provided in the latter inscription, was the guide of the King's Scottish Guards, and served in the military in Barbaria and Portugal.   Appointed Chevalier des Ordres du Roi (a prestigious order of kinghthood) in 1688, he was then appointed lieutenant general in 1693.  He was one of the bearers of honors on the occasion of Louis XV's crowning in 1722.  On July 25, 1723, he bought a large piece of land from the Prince de Tingry on the rue de Varenne in Paris.  The latter had begun building a lavish hôtel particulier, known today as the hôtel de Matignon, where France's Prime Minister lives to this day.

He married his cousin Charlotte de Matignon, with whom he had several children, among which was Jacques-François-Léonor, duc de Valentinois (1689-1751).  After the latter's marriage with Louis[e] Hyppolyte Grimaldi in 1715, he became assimilated to the Grimaldi dynasty, thereby forming the second reigning house of Monaco.


Henri Gascar, also spelled Gascard or Gascars (1634 or 1635, Paris - 1 January 1701, Rome), French portrait painter. Son of a minor painter and sculptor, he achieved his greatest success in England during the reign of Charles II. His flamboyant style was well suited to the frivolity of the English court, and he painted many of its leading ladies, including several of the King's mistresses. After his return to Paris, Gascar was elected a member of the Académie Royale in 1680. He subsequently went to Rome, where he was held in high esteem, and where he died at the age of about sixty-six.
Of course, the comte's beautiful gloves remind of those I gave to the overdressed "falconer" in my painting Plus féroce que ce qu'on pourrait croire, from 2010: