Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ann Gale

This post is dedicated to an artist whom I truly admire, and have been wanting to write about for years. Literally.
I once wrote a post about "Ugly" versus "Pretty" art. It's a dilemma that not only artists go through in their choices for subject matter. Personally, it's something I struggle with on a daily basis....do I see the beauty in things, in people, in myself? Or do I see the grit? The reality, as some might say. Which is real?
Well, from reading past blogs, you know what I think...both, of course. But what happens when the two are opposed? What if the beauty you are trying to find in something is an ideal? And what if the depth and rawness you are searching for just really isn't there?
It's slippery.
But back to Ann.
I bring up all of this because I think this woman holds a very uncomfortably accurate frequency between archetypal and boring.
Apparently, she spends countless hours with her models. She paints them for months at times, a fact that unnerves me a bit.
Having painted models myself for months at a time, this process is a psychological battleground. As much focus as an artist puts on her sitter, like going into a sort of hyper-fixation cloud, retreating out of this brume can be jolting. There is an intimacy with the sitter that can be gruesome.
I'm not idealistic about this process. I say this from experience only; I have had more sitters break down in front of me than not, a fact that is a bit too real.
But something else happens, to me anyway. When the sitter leaves, they step away with an experience. I, the painter, have not only the experience, but also an oeuvre from our encounter. Staring right back at me. I painted it... I partook fully in this thing. And yet, many times, I am meeting this painting, and in turn a part of myself, for the first time. Its often shocking. Sometimes it is underwhelming. What to believe? The thing that has been made, or the experience? Sometimes they are opposed...one protoypical, the other painfully barren.
And that's what I see in Ann's work. I read the words "skeptical of visual reality" with her paintings. And I would agree....I'm skeptical too, but willing to try. Unsure. But being unsure is a sweet spot sometimes. It is synonymous with listening. And that is what I love so dearly about this womans work....a heeding to what she doesn't know. She's been said to repaint and repaint and destroy and repaint each portrait several cycles over. I admire this. I admire the willingness to listen, destroy, be wrong, be in love with something. For all of its flaws and beauty.
Thanks Miss Gale. You remind me of what I think is important.
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