Happy Friday! Beat the snow today with recent art, design, and culture stories shared by the SVACE faculty and community.
Posts Tagged ‘portrait’
John A. Parks is today’s guest blog writer. John is a longtime faculty member, teaching the Fine Arts and Illustration painting courses, Portrait Painting and Making it Real. John’s book, Universal Principles of Art (Rockport Publishers) is available through major retailers and has been published in French by Pyramyd Editions. His recent exhibitions at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, such as In New York and Paint and Memory, have been reviewed in numerous outlets, including the New York Times and this blog. Read more about John and see his paintings at his website.
We asked John to share his response to a painted portrait of Angela Merkel currently on the cover of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue (“Chancellor of the Free World”). Read his response:
Time Magazine’s cover portrait of Angela Merkel was commissioned from the Belfast-based artist Colin Davidson who is known for his large-scale portraits of celebrities. He said of this one: “Although likeness is vital in my practice, it is my hope that a sense of the German Chancellor’s dignity, compassion and humanity is woven into the paint.”
Only it isn’t.
Instead we have a cheaply dramatic painting of the chancellor suffering what appears to be a terminal skin condition.
Usually I’m a huge fan of painterly portraits in which the viewer gets to see how the paint itself stands in for flesh. Sargent, Sorolla and Zorn were masterly at this approach, which goes back to the great painters, Titian, Rembrandt and Velasquez.
Unfortunately in the Time cover painting, the ‘noise’ of the brush-strokes has taken over. Instead of reinforcing our comprehension of the volumes of the head and its fleshy substance, it suggests a surface that is disintegrating. This is particularly noticeable on the sides of the face and the neck where the flesh looks as though it is simply falling away from the form. Meanwhile, the center of the face and the hair appear to closely follow photographic reference, focusing on the eyes which are rendered with a very pedestrian point-for-point realism. This device of carefully rendered eyes and mouth with loose painting elsewhere has long been part of the tradecraft of romance cover artists and other genre illustrators. As illustration, however, this piece is simply rather unfortunate. It portrays the German chancellor in a way that is frankly ugly. This is all the more unpleasant given the widespread negative bias that the public tends to bring to images of women who are not somehow deemed ‘attractive’. It’s hard to fathom why the editors of Time wanted to go with such an image. Perhaps they don’t really like Chancellor Merkel after all.
-John A. Parks, December 2015
Follow John A. Parks on Twitter: @skrappy3
Visit the district office of State Senator Brad Hoylman and you’ll find a painting by SVA Residencies alum George Towne of former Congressman Barney Frank! Barney Frank was the first member of Congress to voluntarily come out as gay; Brad Hoylman married filmmaker David Sigal in 2013.
The loan was facilitated by the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, of which the painting is a part of the permanent collection. George shares some background on the portrait. He writes:
“Back in 2002, I was getting ready for for my first one-person show, which was in New York at the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. It had several portraits of gay men who were ‘out’ in varying professions. Some were ‘heroes’ like 9-11 responders, and James Dale, the Eagle Scout who went to the Supreme Court over the Boy Scouts of America’s policies. I went to Provincetown the summer before the show and just happened to meet Barney Frank. I asked him if he’d pose for photos for a painting and over time, through his secretaries in Boston, then DC, he agreed. He came to the opening and after-party back in Fall 2002, which was the first time he had ever visited the NY Gay Center.”
I also asked Senator Hoylman to share some thoughts about the painting. His answers are in quotes below:
How did you first discover the painting of Barney Frank?
“I learned of it during a tour of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art and was subsequently offered it on a six-month loan. The benefactor apparently wanted it displayed in the office of a public official and I’m glad I fit the bill.”
For you, does the portrait capture particular qualities of Congressman Frank?
“Yes, I think it captures his irascibility. Congressman Frank was an aggressive street-fighter of sorts and that comes through, too. It appears almost as if he’s returning from a hard day’s battle from Capitol Hill.”
What does it mean to you to exhibit art in your office, as opposed to your home?
“I’m excited for constituents to view it. We recently gave out free flu shots to over 100 people in my office and the portrait really engaged them and raised a lot of interesting questions and comments. It’s also inspiring for my staff and me to work in the presence of such an historic LGBT public figure.”
It’s already rare for a painting to get exhibited in public spaces. It’s more rare for a painting to arrive in a place where public policy is shaped. Hopefully, George’s painting will feel right at home.