Donna L. Woodley
I think that I fared very well during the second semester residency. My work consisted of eight 30×36 paintings in oil representing the female figure in underwear. There was discussion about the work during critiques that generated discourse regarding the subject matter, composition, personal issues, process of painting, and race that resonated with me. Although the second residency was very different than the first and at least one panic attack ensued due to an overwhelming amount of suggestions and information, I was able to take away a few key shards of advice. That being said, my goals for this semester became very clear and simple. As Tony Apesos said “If you want to paint, paint.” I want to paint so that is exactly what I will do. The other goal is to further develop my ideas and put more research behind my work, as suggested by Sunanda Sanyal.
Below are a few points discussed during two of the critiques that summarize most of the information compiled during the residency.
- Peter Rostovsky-During this critique, Peter mentioned the gaze in the art world and how it’s been overdone and expressed in so many different ways. He went on to say that if the work is about the gaze, the work has to be presented in a new and unique way in order for it to grasp the attention of the viewer. I didn’t consider the work to be about the gaze nor did I anticipate that it would generate discourse about that topic. The core of the work was about comfort level, vulnerability, and the figure itself in underwear. I thought that he made a great point in stating that ridding the figure of its eyes could possibly be viewed as taking the power away from the subject and giving it to the viewer. That was an point of view that I had not seen until he mentioned it during critique. My goal in making this work was to generate discourse among the viewers and observe the viewer’s interaction with the work. The most interesting observation that I made was Peter reference to the subject matter as “things” when talking about the bodies depicted in the paintings. He proposed possibly cropping the figure to further magnify the bodies in the paintings. Peter also mentioned that flesh should have a “buttery” appearance which requires more paint and a certain way of applying the paint. Artists that were recommended during this critique were Jenny Saville and the need to see her work in person to personally view the texture of the paint and how the skin is represented in her work. He also recommended looking at Manet’s work.
- Jan Avgikos (First Semester Advisor)-During the advisor critique, Jan discussed a number of points pertaining to the subject matter of the work. She mentioned exploring what it means to have a figure without a head and what that means in my work. In addition, she pointed out the idea of a figure in the nude versus being naked and that I explore that path. I explained that some of the pieces depicted a portion of the face which was a means of a slight introduction to incorporating the face in the work. The initial concept was to eliminate the face for a couple of reasons. I wanted to convey the idea of comfort from the standpoint of an overweight woman being courageous to show her body as is but on her terms which resulted in the exclusion of her identity. I also wanted to body to be the focus of the work in the effort to generate discussion about issues of esteem, societal views of beauty and perfection, and the idea of being comfortable. Jan and I also talked about dealing with technical issues of the work. She talked about the idea of my work and whether the distortions of the anatomy were deliberate or whether the renderings were the result of not knowing how to render the figure particularly speaking of the painting with the black underwear where the arms were proportionally larger.
- Moreover, she discussed embracing the “mistakes” and expressed that Tony Apesos would be an excellent advisor during the second semester in her opinion. Jan recommended that I look at Manet’s “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” and late Renoir work to explore distortion of the body along with nudity. We discussed taking a painting class and learning how to better render the body, but being careful to maintain the power in the work. Finally, we talked about race and I expressed that although I didn’t want to focus on being an African American initially, I eventually during the residency embraced this idea from the standpoint the it is included in my work but not the primary premise of the work.
For the semester, I am looking forward to making new work that will generate a similar discourse but with more developed ideas and solid research to support the work. My goals are as follows:
- Continue painting
- Explore different ways to apply paint
- Take a painting workshop (Oil workshop August 9th)
- Explore posing and underwear: distortion of the body through posing, history of underwear, purpose for wearing underwear and how that has evolved and remained through time.
- Incorporate pattern into work
- Read the following:
- Modern Painters
- “The Nude” by Kenneth Clark
- “Bathers, Bodies, Beauty: The Visceral Eye” by Linda Nochlin
- “The Naked Nude” by Frances Borzello
- “The Female Nude” by Lynda Nead
- Artists: Rembrandt, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Barkley Hendricks, Henry Taylor, Jenny Saville, Gustave Courbet, Sylvia Sleigh, John Currin, Eric Fischl, Victoria Kate Russell, Patrick Earl Hammie, and more.
- Physically see more art
As I previously stated, coming into this second residency was very different than the first residency. All of the information discussed during the critiques I felt was valuable and provided me with a number of things to think about. I’m excited to see what I will come up with this semester in continuing to build a solid body of work.