November 15, 2007

Angels, Reluctance, and Necessity



A sister of a friend of mine, upon hearing that my art sales were sluggish, suggested that I do paintings of angels because people liked them and would definitely buy them. I tried to conceal, but probably not very well, that I was bristling a bit at the suggestion because it conjured up images of ceramic kitsch. But I thanked her because her advice was basically well-intended and also because she was on her way out of town and therefore not likely to bring the subject up again any time soon. But the subject did come up again - this time in a letter via a third party. At that point I decided to diplomatically say that since I'm an artist for hire I would be happy to paint angels or any other subject for paying patrons, but on my own time, the subject matter would be my choice.
Then two things happened to change my mind. While in Charleston, I took in the exibition, "In the Spirit" at Nina Liu and Friends. There was a series of bold oil pastels by the artist Phillip Chen. They were beautiful abstractions with intricately textured surfaces entitled "Angels." The only allusion to angels in these works was a composition with a central form in the shape of a "V" which could be interpreted as wings. So what is in a name? One could very well paint what one always had painted but name it in keeping with the season.
Just a few short days later, I was asked if I might set up a booth to sell small gift items at a fund raiser for Glen Forest Elementary School in Lexington, SC. Since I had no more teaching gigs or commissions for the rest of this year I agreed. But I needed to come up with something I could do quickly to sell for under $50 each and in a style/subject that would not conflict with my gallery in neighboring Columbia, SC. Angels perhaps? Well, okay, I decided to give it a try, keeping it light, enjoyable, highly interpretative, and, out of time and neccessity - to use only materials I had on hand. So I scrounged around my studio and came up with paper sized with black gesso. Into the night? I had a bag of decorative feathers left over from a school project - wing parts? And finally, I had gold, silver and metallic leaf for a touch of the otherworldly. I laid out the metal leaf on the black gesso first, in no particular order and avoiding the obvious "halo." I next smeared on acrylic paint in between and sometimes washing over the metal leaf. The final touch came with the applied feathers. I found that when the feathers overlapped the metal, the light reflecting off the gold and silver irridized the feathers - giving them a somewhat otherworldly glow.
To my pleasant surprise, the project was engaging, and even my most discerning critic, my husband Nat, liked the results. So a project that I thought I would abhor turned out to be an enjoyable experiment in media that I might continue to use in later work.

2 comments:

artsails1 said...

Janet;
It was great chatting with you and seeing "the angels" at Glenforest. I find when a subject comes up a lot in a very short time, I end up painting it with the emotion(s)it invokes. You did exactly that! Thank you for sharing the story...
yours truly,
Jean Bourque
http://artsails1.blogspot.com

harriett said...

Sometimes we stubbornly resist an idea, and upon later thought realize the merits of it. Good way to turn things around!!! Beautiful work!