Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Art as Metaphor

We all know this, art is metaphor, but we still have strong preferences for the way in which that metaphor is painted. I'm eager to see the film Silvina has posted on her blog and thought of some of the ways I've painted portraits in the past. David's blog has some wonderful portraits in watercolor and acrylic that then led me to Barbara Paints with more fabulous portraits.

If we constrain ourselves to one genre, or 'ism', we do so out of choice today. That is the positive side of Post Modernism. What we often call 'ugly art' may send us running, but it really provides a broader base from which all artists can work.
Here are the three paintings I've got for this musing. The first is my attempt at photo realism of our family friend of long ago: 36" x 36"

The second is a looser, more impressionistic portrait of Mr. Arty Fice himself, also from a few years back: 24" x 36"

The third is a self portrait (I don't really look like this, except in the morning). This is a narrative piece about the day I was biking with my dog. He bolted, his leash wrapped around a mailbox and I went flying. I suffered a traumatic brain injury that rendered me dog-like for quite some time--couldn't write, couldn't read, couldn't speak well (only in telegraph sentences, as they call them).

Are these valid paintings? Is one better than another?


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

I like all three portraits and I get
your point. They are all powerful and magnetic. There is no "right" way to paint, we have to do what's "right" for the moment, the subject, sometimes even the pay check.

Thanks for your kind compliments for
my work too.


Edgar said...

Metaphor is another word for abstracted thought, right? When I say "you've put the wind in my sails" (which is something I should tell Melinda every day) everyone here knows I'm not really a boat -- but the abstract image tells them that I've surged ahead because I'm going in a productive direction.

So, if art is metaphor, art is, by definition, abstract. This is the thing that makes me cringe when people talk about representational art -- the sense they mean is either redundant (because all metaphor represents something), and the sense means "representational representation," or they mean it is "realistic" which is kind of contradictory: a reality-like abstraction.

Anonymous said...

Love these comments! This is my favorite of the three paintings. But I like them all very much.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I should have said the last one!

Melinda said...

Thank you for stopping by, artistsjournal. I kinda like the last one best, too. It's pretty visceral, but because it has a personal narrative, I'm more emotionally invested.

Nava said...

Got to your blog via Bonnie Luria's. Wow - that's some variety of style!! Looks like you had fun with all three - I love the loose background on the first one, which serves as a wonderful contrast to the realistic figure.

Anonymous said...

Melinda- really terrific in your range of abilities.
For me too, it's the last one that gets me.

To change up your styles of representation stretches your skills as an artist.

I enjoy what you present here- both your art, and your perspectives.

Melinda said...

Barbara m.,

Sometimes deciding what is 'right' is like walking with eyes shut. I often think how nice it would be to have three clones of myself. One that only did conceptual work, another that did realistic work and one that could make a living from popular work. But, this would be a nightmare for my family...


Welcome! Thank you for commenting. The first one was fun to do, very challenging. I just couldn't get totally photo-real and had to have some "abstraction" of background. I'd like to do more sometime...


Thank you for the compliment (a tip of the hat to you). It does really stretch our skills when we mix it up a bit.


I couldn't agree more. Does this mean that I'm not just the hot air in your life?!

Anonymous said...

I'm almost feeling like I should have written a disclaimer before posting Tony Pro's letter on my blog;
-The opinions posted on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Studio 280 staff, and we are not responsible for any emotional injury or confusion this may cause the readers-: D

I love Diebenkorn AND Sorolla! Rauschenberg AND Sargent!

This is a wonderful topic of discussion. And I agree with Barbara M., all of the paintings you posted are powerful and magnetic. And valid.

I think that the representational artists get indignant when they hear about what art education was in the 70s. From what I hear, what they called 'self expression' was splashing paint on the canvas without ever learning drawing skills, structure of the human figure, understanding composition, color mixing, etc, etc... All of that was thrown out the window.

I believe all art is self expression, realistic or not. Maybe people got sick of art being so closely scrutinized and judged by wether it was 'correct' or not, so they went to the opposite extreme. That always happens when the people in charge get too controlling.

I hope what will begin to happen now is a growing awareness of the value of both schools of thought. A kind of melding. It's all about CHOICE.

P.S. so that's what Edgar looks like.

Edgar said...

"Hot air," Melinda? Not a bit. Where would I be without your counsel? ... I wouldn't even have a blog to my name.

Silvina -- I have found that I'm starting to put disclaimers on my own opinions (i.e., "my opinions, expressed in this comment, may or may not be my own. I might have borrowed them, or I might pretend I don't recognize them, if they get me in trouble.). But we're having a wonderful discussion, about important things!

BTW -- I neglected to vote. It would be coy of me to say I wasn't flattered by the second. As for the likeness, I must admit it is an exact replica. I am, in fact, actually two dimensional. ;->

But I really love the last -- all that stuff going on simultaneously appeals to my desire for mystery.

Karen said...

I vote for the last painting, too. I too think that they're all 'valid', but I'm intrigued by paintings that leave me with questions: what's going on here? why is that mark made that way? what color is behind that other color? etc. It seems like that type of thing is even more difficult to achieve in 'realism' than abstraction...to balance a recognizable image with an open-endedness. But when it happens, it floors you!

Melinda said...

Spoken like a true Renaissance woman! I agree that there doesn't really have to be any divisiveness. At the university, professors pushed the students to be more abstract and conceptual because they assumed that they had been drawing all of their lives, having lots of technique already established. I can tell you that this is not always the case! I was an older student who came with very little in the way of technique or knowledge. This turned out to be a good thing, but I now struggle with some of the fundamentals.
We can blame Clement Greenberg for telling us what was correct from the 1940s onward. Before that it was the Academy or some other organization. Thankfully, we artists aren't so big on groups!
That Edgar is correct--he's often 2D, but is now in pursuit of layers of meaning: the wisdom of a decade later, the wit of a kindly cynic and an artist's maturing signature.

Melinda said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
To engage the viewer in a conversation that may go beyond the decorative is something that I enjoy doing even while feeling anxious about its success. And, the word decorative is freighted with all kinds of negatives, but who isn't moved by a beautiful painting?!
You've nailed it with the challenge to "balance a recognizable image with an open-endedness." It's not so successful, I think, to have recognizable images, obviously arranged to suggest personal narrative, if the painting doesn't work on some decorative level as well.
No matter the subject, genre, or "ism", we do interject our élan, don't we?