Sunday, January 23, 2011

"I paint to tell myself about myself"

I painted for 8 hours yesterday. I'm not finished but sure got a lot of it done. I have to say in my opinion this is the most peculiar and strange painting I have done. It is not done from life but from my imagination. The subject matter was inspired by by Eric Fischl's painting, "The Artist as an Old Man", my painting is a self -portrait of myself, " The Artist as a Crone."

Eric's studies of nudes are often put in ambiguous situations, often depicting suburban lifestyle, placing the viewer in a somewhat voyeuristic perspective which can be uncomfortable, disconcerting and even shocking. This is not why I admire his work, but it is an very important element in his work.

He said," I paint to tell myself about myself". This appears to be a simple message statement, nonetheless it is also a complex and philosophical one on many levels that says a lot to me about his art practice, and who he is as a person and an artist. He has been peeling the layers of an onion, and involved with self-discovery. The fact that Eric Fischl has engaged himself in this process is most compelling for me personally and why I admire his work and him as an artist and a man.
He has been long involved in this process of introspection and emerged from decade of the 70s when the ,"Death of Painting ", which was the prevalent attitude within influential art institutions such as Cal Arts. When he arrived at NSCAD he was afraid to paint realistically but struggled with what he said was, " the weight of modernist discourse he had to shrug off when he attempted to own the tradition of narrative realism."

My piece is for third year painting class. We were to do a research project based on an artist we liked. and then produce a painting that reflected the artist's style.

It was a process that was a little unsettling. I have no desire for anyone see me naked as an old woman, God knows not even me! Fortunately because I was using a completely new medium, egg tempera, for the first time, I was absorbed in this process, as opposed to thinking too much about my portrait of myself as an old naked woman.

Normally when I work, I need to have a connection with what it is I am painting, I call it being in love with the subject matter. Without having to be too psycho-analytical I can't help observing my reactions to being the subject. I don't want to think about this too long! I am attempting to distance myself, suffice to say, I think there is a kind of cathartic experience to be had, delving into, and facing the fear that comes with growing old and losing one's looks. Acceptance makes it palatable and even liberating. We are more than what we look like. This is more of an issue for woman, as we have lived in a world that has long objectified the female body.

When I was a student in the 70s up to the early 80s I supplemented my living expenses by modeling for life drawing classes. Some people may think that to be a good model you need to have a ideal body type. This is a misconception as artists want and need to be able to render all kinds of body shapes and sizes. When I modeled, I had a variety of thoughts and beliefs regarding my own body image and self-esteem many that were not very healthy, which I did not fully comprehend until many years later in my adult life.

Doing this self-portrait has once again given me the time out to be introspective about my own beliefs about my own body image, now as a crone.
When I reached the age of fifty there was a shift in my attitude. I developed a "I don't give a shit what people think". It' s an ongoing process and it is my experience when a woman gets to be a certain age she becomes more comfortable in her own skin and really begins to accept and love herself not in spite of who she is , but because of who she is. This is liberation!

Portrait of the Artist As A Crone - 2011 36 cm x cm Egg Tempra


Indigene said...

Oh my, Catherine, you are a brave and wonderful artist! I love this! Thanks so much for directing me here! I'm hoping to build up to doing a self-nude in my 70s, hopefully, I live that long! :)

Unknown said...

Awww thank you ((((Indigene)))) very much.
How about the tan lines eh! HA HA. When I was modeling I once had an old boyfriend say my skin was like leather. I thought, well that's a little rude and harsh, but now well ok!
Ain't life a grand adventure!?

Michele Thomas said...

Catherine, I have followed Indigene here, thank you for sharing. I love the self portrait and it coincides with my increasing interest in the genre....something to do with getting comfortable in my fifties. Thanks for the inspiration.

Unknown said...

Thank you for you kind words and for dropping by Michelle it is great to meet you!

Yes getting comfortable in your fifties is one of the great rewards of becoming a Crone!

You have lived a very interesting life I'd say and I look forward to reading your blog! I'm sure you have lots of stories to share!