Crit Group, Second Round, March 2011

Another round of “likes” from the missed critique session last Tuesday. Luckily I only had to make two difficult choices this time, because Susan presented just one painting. So I could like it without being torn.

Here’s Susan’s painting:

Susan Monti, 24 x 30″, oil on canvas

What I found instantly intriguing about this portrait was that Susan used varieties of red hues almost exclusively. There may be a bit of black and certainly she has mixed the browns from colors beyond red but even they contain versions of red. The delicate hand and the sweet flare of the nostrils which echoes the width and intrigue of the eyes also captured my attention. I like the way the dark brown of the hair balances the deep red of the background, and the hand comes forward, almost out of the canvas.

Susan generally does landscapes; my memory is that she says she does portraits “for relief” from the more difficult landscapes. I find this a rather shocking statement (portraits are for me the most difficult kind of painting), but having seen a number of her portraits, I believe her. Susan’s ability to capture a quick glance of emotional meaning is always in evidence.

Helen Kroger’s work sometimes seems the exact opposite of my own in its simplicity as well as its mystery. Her work is thoroughly abstracted from landscape, yet has landscape elements embedded ( sometimes literally) in it:

Helen Kroger, 18 x 25″, mixed media on board

I’m quite certain that this photo doesn’t do justice to Helen’s work — the photos never do. Her surfaces are worked and sanded down and worked again. Thus hers is work that has to be seen up close and in real-time to be fully appreciated. Yet what I liked about the image of this one is the organic flow underneath the severity of the rectangles and stripes.

There’s a serenity in the gold flow, but movement as well. The rust color of the severe strips on the left softens them, as does the hints (in the photo) of gold in the squares.

And here’s my pick of Catherine’s pieces:

Catherine Taylor, 24 x 30″ Oil on canvas

Catherine had 3 paintings in this session, and I found making the single choice most difficult.  I think I liked this one because of the intriguing shadows in the water, as well as the reflections of unseen elements — hills, sand bars, land forms that can only be known through their reflections. The glow (I think I must be into glow this week) of light on the water — and I’m assuming that the background is water — as it is shown in the green hues as well as the golds is accentuated by the red/blacks of the rectangular barge (or lumber)  shapes. The red outline of the one at the top pushes my eye into the billowing reflection and then back around the painting.

Finally, a note about the concept of “like” as I’ve talked about it here.

First, it’s a bit unfair to most of my readers who don’t have access to the full range of images for me to stand on my soapbox and make unilateral statements about these “likes.”  And, (as I sort of expected), Jane in her funny humble way said the painting I chose was the one she had “pretty much decided [she] would tear into when [she] got a chance.”

Jane is always critical of her own exquisite work. It will be fun to hear comments from my other colleagues as well, although they might wait until they see me in person to give me their personal takes on my choices.

As I have said elsewhere, “likes” or instant attractions to objects of art are kin to instant attractions to people.  One can be seduced in an instant, drawn in because of the mood and atmosphere of the introduction, a bit of mutton in the soup (as Scrooge said in a different context), the amount of coffee consumed just as the object of interest appears, and/ or the need for color in a long Pacific Northwest winter. I could list other influences — the time of day, the nature of the wine, the crazed traffic outside the window — but you probably get my drift.

Seductive surfaces can grab us because they are wonderful and because we need them at that moment. However, in making longer range decisions about giving away my  affections, I find that I often need time and affinity, glances out of the corner of my eye in various lights, acquaintance that goes beyond the single item,  and close observations of the object of desire from other people I trust. The three hours of our crit sessions don’t provide enough time nor enough affinity for firm opinion making, but I can glance and chatter, and as well, I know something about other work from these artists.  Thus. often the instant “like” turns into a desire for a closer, more extended acquaintance, a friendship rather than an infatuation.

As I review my choices, I find I definitely want a closer acquaintance with these pieces — but alas, by the next session, I suspect that Helen will have obliterated with sandpaper the one I loved, Jane will have wiped out and started over on her piece, and Catherine will have flung the one I chose into a corner, face to the wall. And I’m counting on David to be dissatisfied with his, too, using spray paint to move images elsewhere. Susan will quietly hide hers away. and Jerry will put his into the drawer while he contemplates further advances in his techniques. But maybe, just maybe, I’m wrong:-)

It’s what the crit sessions are good for:  I quote Jane again —

Everyone’s  thoughts and reactions  — that’s what makes all this so interesting.  & then the challenge comes back to the artist to keep looking looking looking, feeling, thinking — trying to sort out what communicates what — & what’s personally important.

The next post will feature a single work by a single artist in the crit group. But Emery’s piece is a “tetrad”, three into one, so it needed a post all of its own. –June

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