I met last week with my new mentor, Hannah Barrett. I had plenty of time to think about the process as I drove from Boston to Brooklyn to meet with her. I specifically brought three paintings that were fairly microcosmic of how I work but were in an early or green state. I am holding off on adding color to them for longer than usual, I hope to remove even more from them and get even more reductive. I wanted to have something post-residence that took into consideration all that I had taken from those many hours of introspection. This triptych is titled Koko in Black Leggings. The meeting was well worth the drive.
Some highlights of the discussion were the idea of simultaneity when portraying another yet trying to project oneself, the differences between a portrait and a domestic scene, and the survival of portraiture in England as a genre in contrast to its fifty year disappearance in America. We discussed concepts like economy and illusion, and the illusion of virtuosity or what Stuart called a code of mastery. We discussed the ever-popular topic of finish in my work, why evocations of under-painting are always referenced. For once, it wasn't the thinness of the paint but the umber accused as the culprit. The idea of a painting that is between a drawing and a painting was thrown around as something we both appreciated, and the overall calligraphic nature of my drawing style was analyzed for content. We discussed my interest in the fragility of an image, both as it exists on the canvas, and the cavalier or passive nature with which a contemporary audience views painting. We talked about the effects and the possible misinterpretations of the erasure or subtractive components in the work. For the first time ever she brought up what misinterpretations I may be willing to allow, something that before the critique I had not thought of. Hannah also pointed out some parameters or set of constraints or conventions that I work within, and she really tried to thematically tie together the pieces that I brought with the ones that I had in digital format.
Hannah thought that it was obvious that the clearest and most successful decision that I have made is the consistent use of economy, which she quickly linked to mortality. This relationship was discussed as it pertains both to the fleeing moment such as childhood and also the moving target that is the portrait including the paradox of the singular moment or the true present. After admitting to Hannah’s delight that my life is pretty boring, and that authenticity requires me to include this component into my work, she commented on an obvious interest of mine in the information in a painting which is absolutely essential, and a resistance to any information which is extraneous. She brought up Whistler, like she wanted to make my day.
Partial story, incomplete idea of perfection, open narrative, bad drawing and honesty…it is all there. Going forward, Hannah challenged me to think about other conventions such as the erasure that I am willing to part with. Ironically, she thought I could be mindful of scale and work bigger (I went smaller just for this trip and brought some knee-highs which made my work a bit more sentimental I think.) She recommended some good books, some of which I already purchased. In general, I am completely thrilled about my new mentor. I learned a lot, but felt like I was talking to a friend. Feels good when something works out. Hannah emailed me yesterday to wish me luck. She ended the message, “stay boring.”