I think it is a very relatable perspective to not really be “into” modern art. Admittedly there is a lot of art I do not like. And obviously, I’m a representationalist in my own work, which means, I draw things that are found in the world and are recognizable. But like all people, I find fascination in those who possess talents that I do not.
In my other paintings for the American Road Trip Calendar, I responded to each artist in a more literal way; how I painted the leaves, my composition, and my inclusion of mountains. I wanted to respond to modern artists, but I didn’t feel I could do them all justice in the same way, so instead, I very literally painted them all into a very American architectural study.
Mark Rothko’s expression of color and emotions is so compelling. Alex Katz work is so instantly recognizable and stylized amidst a blur of other portraitists- and yet he captures the character behind the sitter. Jasper Johns did several series of American flags that explored the symbolism of the flag and his story to his pieces are so riveting and very genuine that it’s difficult not to wind up liking his work. (The Whitney Museum has more to say on Jasper Johns here.) Franz Kline’s black and white series I - along with many others- am entirely batty over. In each artist I find their approach to their subject matter a broader concept to relate to which speaks to a universal character found in humanity.
Atop, the architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright spirals up in the perfect setting for modern art; The Guggenheim. Jasper Johns Three Flags which draw your attention to the usually seen but not noticed American flag- with his visual trick of projecting the smaller flags outward instead of inward as perspective usually dictates. Mark Rothko’s blue emotion and a stunning piece of stylized sunlight through the trees by Alex Katz.
I cannot lie and say I liked the Picture of Dorian Gray. But, I do find the concept tremendously compelling, and as all things that resonate with me, I relate to the overarching concept. I loved the concept laid out by the painter in the novel;
Whether you’ve read the novel or not, the overarching concept is that will not ruin the book for you, is that the painting ages due to the sitter, Dorian, and his sins, and, therefore,Dorian does not age. I love that in the novel the painter exclaims that he cannot display the painting of Dorian because he feels that it is actually a painting of himself. The painter has actually exposed his own soul in the painting- and he’s embarrassed and cannot show the world. He also expresses the fact that when he met Dorian he felt that Dorian possed a power to entirely overcome him. The painter’s dependency on Dorian is obvious; he needs him as his muse and catalyst for creating his painting.
As I read all of this I was reminded of a description from my favorite essays by C.S.Lewis that states we do not no mortal men- and that if we saw one another as we will exist in the afterlife, we might be tempted to worship one another because their sight would be so overwhelming.
I found the connection of these two concepts compelling because it is almost as if the artist finds Dorian in his afterlife state- he nearly worships and fully adores him. And I also love that there is a question, at this point, if Dorian even exists. Is this painting of the artist who has revealed his inner nature- so embarrassing that he can’t show it and that he wants to hide it?
I loved the complexity of thought, and the ability by these modernists to capture a universal element of the human character. While Wilde is not an American writer, he did travel here and interact with many of our own great thinkers. I felt he captures a very modern characteristic of intrapersonal moral dialogue of the modern American painters well.
This painting was created for the 2019 American Road Trip Calendar in which I responded to other artists and authors in the creation of the collection. The original and prints are unfortunately no longer available of this piece. Next year’s calendar is available and all calendar artwork is available for sale.
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