Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Four Women and a Demon

Four Women and a Demon
2021, oil on linen, 14 3/4" x 21"


Demons have appeared numerous times in my work. They arrive unpremeditated in the initial drawing of a composition, quietly arising from my subconscious – as do most of my ideas.

The meaning of this and other demons is totally up to the viewer, and from comments I’ve received I know the interpretations vary greatly; they can be humorous or evil, sexual or chaste, the representation of an internal dysfunction or of an external influence. Whatever ones see is what it is. 

I’ve long thought it best to leave the viewer to bring their own creativity to deciphering the meaning of a painting. A verbal explanation on my part would be limiting.

One of the best examples in my experience of divergent interpretations happened at the opening of my 1995 exhibition at the Adelson Galleries and involved the painting Pharmacy.


Pharmacy
1994, oil on linen, 9" x 9"

A man came up to me, pointed to this painting and told me: “You have a very malevolent view of humanity. You must be severely depressed.” He walked away without waiting for a response. 

Not that I had one. 

Fifteen minutes later, another man pointed to the same painting and said: “I love it. You have a wonderfully wry and profound view of the world and its absurdity.” 

A good antidote to the first comment.


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Saturday, March 13, 2021

September

I spent July through December working on the painting below, titled September

Compositions with an abundance of leaves are among my most complex and take a lot of time to paint. The placement and color of each leaf, the flow they generate together with the branches and trunks, are always a challenge. 


September
2020, oil on linen, 34" x 22"
Private collection, Florida

The color organization puts cool greens and a blue sky in the upper part of the painting, and warm reds and browns in the lower. In a way opposite of what I did in another recent painting, Subway Interior, where the warm colors are on top and the cool below.


Subway Interior
2020, oil on linen, 26" x 15"

Below are my two largest leaf paintings. Each took a year or more to complete. 


In the Garden
2006-2007, oil on linen, 62" x 72"
Private collection, New York


Woman with Autumn Leaves
1992-1994, oil on linen, 36" x 72"
Private collection, California


Meanwhile, during the last two months I've been working on a painting of a woman playing with a cat and developing drawings - including a large one of an audience at a theatrical performance.



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Monday, August 31, 2020

Queen

A new painting:

Queen
2020, oil on linen, 10" x 8"

In the original drawing the woman was alone and wearing a party hat resembling a crown. The title Queen remains from that first image, even though she lost her hat and gained two admiring men. As always, the evolution came about naturally as the painting developed, and was not based on any meaningful thought beyond what was intuitively needed. I still like the original drawing and may return to it again.

Queen, drawing #1
2019, pencil on graph paper, 9 1/2" x 7"

Queen was finished seven weeks ago, and since then I've been working on a composition of a woman with two children, five pears, and a bird:

Collecting Pears, in progress
34" x 22", oil on linen

detail, ca. 5" x 7"

The bird was inspired by the catbirds that nest every spring in the dense patch of knotweed outside my studio, and it's the first one I've painted since 1996:

Woman with Bird
5 1/2" x 4", oil on linen, 1996
Private collection, Massachusetts


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Loop

New painting:

Loop
2020, oil on linen, 13" x 13"
Courtesy of Adelson Galleries

This painting is closely related to another, Subway Loops.


Subway Loops,
2009, oil on linen, 40" x 50"
Collection of the Wen Long Foundation, Taiwan

When I first started painting Subway Loops in 2008, the composition was smaller, 30" x 32", with two rows of seated figures and three figures holding the loops.

After finishing the heads of two figures, I decided to rework the composition, increasing the size to 40" x 50", and adding another row of seats and one more figure holding a fourth loop. A new canvas was stretched and the first version was abandoned.

However, I liked the two faces I'd painted on that first version, and cut them out of the canvas, saving the two pieces and restretching them. One - Woman Wearing a Red Hat - was finished in 2014. This second unfinished canvas, Loop, remained hanging on a wall in my studio until a few weeks ago when it finally returned to the easel and the red dress, the loop, and the background were painted. 


Subway Loops, drawing #9
2008,  pencil on paper with pastel tone on reverse, 30" x 32"
Courtesy of Adelson Galleries

Above: the final drawing for the first version of the composition. 
Below: the expanded composition for Subway Loops


Subway Loops, drawing #11
2009, pencil on paper with pastel tone on reverse, 40" x 50"
Collection of the Wen Long Foundation, Taiwan

Here's the other figure that was saved and finished a few years ago: 


Woman Wearing a Red Hat
2014, oil on linen, 16" x 10"
Courtesy of Adelson Galleries

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May - June 2020

An Online Exhibition
About the Artist: Andrew Stevovich

Adelson Galleries
New York      Palm Beach


click to view the online exhibition

The Fuller Building
595 Madison Avenue, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10022
(212) 439-6800

318 Worth Avenue
Palm Beach, FL 33480
(561) 720-2079

www.adelsongalleries.com

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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Olga

New painting:

Olga
2020, oil on linen, 7 1/2" x 6"

My previous three paintings - Twins, Flying Torpedo, and Subway Interior - were complex compositions, so it was time to go to a simpler image. Getting the right grey notes to work in harmony was not easy, but I think it all worked out. The red lipstick does the trick.

Perhaps the painting is an homage to Whistler, to his beautiful use of monochromatic harmonies ... perhaps it is a grey response to the desolation of the coronavirus pandemic ... perhaps it's both.

The figure was present in my previous painting, Subway Interior, and received comments about the hat. One person expressed a wariness that no modern women would ever wear such a hat. Being a stubborn person, I just liked the shape and stayed with it. 

And here, perhaps the hat is another homage, now to Piero della Francesca and his brilliant double portrait of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza:

The Duke and Duchess of Urbino
 Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza
Piero della Francesca
ca. 1465-1472, tempera on panel, 19" x 26" Uffizi gallery, Florence

Or perhaps it's simply due to a childhood memory of the black hats, the kalimafhi, worn by Orthodox priests:


Perhaps it's both.

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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Subway Interior

New painting:

Subway Interior
2019-2020, oil on linen, 26" x 15"

In this painting, I originally planned to use a harmony of cool blues and blacks complemented by the warm note of the woman's blond hair. However, while resolving the advertisements along the top, reds began to predominate ... it's an unusual harmony and juxtaposition, but I think it works quite well. 

Subway Interior, drawing #4
2019, pencil on paper with yellow ochre pastel on reverse, 26" x 15"

Subway Interior, drawing #5
2020, pencil on paper with green oxide pastel on reverse, 8 1/2" x 15'

Subway Interior, drawing #1
undated, pencil on graph paper, 7 1/2" x 6 3/4"

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Subway Interior, in progress

I'm working on a new subway painting. Drawings for the composition have floated around my studio for a couple years and the painting was finally started last September, at the same time as I was working on Flying Torpedo.

Here's how the painting looked recently:

in progress, 16 Feb
26" x 15", oil on linen

The following was originally planned for the advertising at the top:



However, the partial face of a woman, her hand holding a card, no longer seemed right. After exploring new ideas, I decided to split the ad into two separate ones:



A red-faced Tengu - a creature found in Japanese folklore - on the left. A woman on the right holding a photo of another woman with her eyes shut. The tiers of space and narrative, running from the small photo to the advertisements themselves, and then to the overall composition, had a rhythm and energy that felt right and created an interesting flow.

The painting yesterday, after these changes:

in progress, 26 Feb
26" x 15", oil on linen

As for why Tengu? I've always wanted to include one in a painting on account of a significant personal event that happened at the Tengu Restaurant in San Diego in 1982. Great sushi too, but  the restaurant is now long closed.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Upcoming Retrospective

A retrospective of my paintings will be at the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina, from February 5th to March 29th. 


Thirty-seven paintings and two drawings will be shown, dating from 1987 to the present. Among the works:


Betting Windows
1995, oil on linen, 38" x 46"
Private collection, New York

Sophie with Tarot
2001, oil on linen, 30" x 24"
Private collection, Massachusetts

Tortilla Factory
2003, oil on linen, 11" x 20"
Private collection, New York


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Flying Torpedo

Finished:

Flying Torpedo
2019, oil on linen, 36" x 48"

The colors of the individual torpedoes required considerable thought and experimentation. The ride that inspired this composition had alternating red and yellow cars, but I made numerous studies of different color combinations and sequences. All red or all yellow seemed promising, just red and yellow too, and then there was blue and green. 

In the end, I felt the three primaries - red, yellow, and blue - were the best choice, creating the most energy and movement. They are counterbalanced by the secondary colors - green, purple, and orange - in the clothing of the riders, and by the triangle of the three white shirts.

The final challenge was the background. Night or day? I started to paint a dark sky, but it didn't look right. A light sky blue was immediately better. Next, how to create the impression that all was airborne? Painting small people down below, or buildings or tree tops, made the composition seem too busy and precious. I decided the best solution was an arc at the bottom in a neutral color over stripes; stretching from side to side it would symbolize a structure below the ride. 

small sketch for the lower background
2019, pencil on paper, 2 1/4" x 3"

When I started to paint it, however, the idea of a winding line quickly took over. One more time the subconscious knew better.

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Amusement Park Ride

This is the final drawing for a painting that I'm currently working on - a composition of riders on an aerial ride in an amusement park:

Amusement Park Ride (final drawing)
2019, pencil on paper with green oxide pastel on reverse, 36" x 48"

The idea for this image came from the 'Flying Skooter' ride at Glen Echo Park in Maryland, a couple miles northwest of Washington, DC. Except for the carousel, all the rides are long-gone now, sold or demolished by 1970. I went there many times as a teenager and it was my next favorite ride after the roller coaster. Each car had room for two people, and by moving a large rudder in front, one could make it rotate and point in different directions while spinning around the central axis. A lot of fun for the time, but tame by the standards of contemporary rides.

photo from A General History of Glen Echo Park, by Richard A. Cook, 1997
https://glenecho-cabinjohn.com/GE-04.html

The initial drawings were simpler and included the rudder. I still may go back to this original composition for a smaller painting, but as subsequent drawings became larger, the rudder started to seem too dominant. I dropped it and added more cars and couples.

Amusement Park Ride (drawing #1)
1991, pencil on tracing paper. 9 1/2" x 11"

Amusement Park Ride (drawing #2)
1993, pencil on paper. 9 1/2" x 11"
Amusement Park Ride, in  progress, detail of upper left quadrant
ca. 21" x 24"

Saturday, August 10, 2019

James Abbott McNeill Whistler

The paintings of Whistler (1834-1903) have been a significant influence on my work - one that I don't mention as much as I should. The beauty of his compositions and his use of closely-related colors to create tonal harmonies have long been an inspiration, and these qualities are embodied in Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The painting is one of my favorites, and I always go to see it when I visit the museum. 

Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl 
James Abbott Mac Neill Whistler
1862, oil on canvas, 84" x 42 1/2"National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

A painting of Joanna Hiffernan - Whistler's muse and mistress - it was submitted to the exhibition at the Paris Salon in 1863 and rejected. It was shown instead at the Salon des Refus├ęs where it became a major attraction. Whistler regarded the painting as an expression of his belief that a work of art should fundamentally be appreciated for its appeal to the eye - for what I would call its abstract qualities - rather than being viewed and interpreted only as a narrative.

I share that point of view, as well as Whistler's interest in harmonies of very similar tones of one color. His use of different whites in this painting, punctuated by the note of dark red hair, is compelling and beautiful, and I've gone in that direction in a number of my paintings.

Some examples of my harmonies in white:

Night in a White Room
1969, oil on canvas, 12" x 18"
Destroyed in 1974. An experiment with an oil medium caused the surface to splotch and discolor, and being painted in oil over an old acrylic painting caused the surface to crack and peel as well. Lessons learned.

Interior at Night
2013, oil on linen, 52" x 50"
Collection, Fidelity Investments

Bread Shop
1996, oil on linen, 14" x 20"
Private collection, Massachusetts

And a harmony in red:

Lola Likes Red
2016, oil on linen, 8" x 5 3/4"

A more minimal Whistler is in the collection of the Worcester Art Museum - a portrait of a later mistress, Maud Franklin:

Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket

James Abbott Mac Neill Whistler
1877, oil on canvas, 76" x 36 1/2"
Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Twins

Finished:

Twins
2018-2019, oil on linen, 30" x 38"

My March 9th post was about how Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani - artists and twin sisters - came to my studio and asked if I would do a portrait of them set within the world of my painting. As the work progressed, I posted about adding the large background figure - the muse - and then about the color choices being made.

Now completed, I find that the harmony of closely related tones of warm neutral colors contrasting with the large areas of dark grays and blacks makes for a gentle luminescence, despite being rather subdued. All is further energized by the notes of bright color - the two drawings, the brush, the pencil, and the lid on the jar of water or turpentine - objects that could be considered the iconography of artists.

The final result is not a strictly accurate portrait - people who know the sisters may say they look a bit different from my representation - but the painting is an accurate portrayal of my inner feelings about them as a psychological expression, or perhaps better said, as an impression.


In the sisters' studio
30 October 2017

quotes

"There is more power in telling little than in telling all."
- Mark Rothko

“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meanings are unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
- Magritte

"Now, the idea is to get everything right -- it's not just color or form or space or line -- it's everything all at once."
- Richard Diebenkorn