December 11, 2007

Protozoans in the Mark Coplan Collection

A painting I made in my early student days now comes back to taunt me from the walls of the South Carolina State Museum. I recall that when I painted it years ago it had met with the ire of my art professor at the time, Joan Semmel. Looking at it again brings back the memory of her waving her hands over this little painting in exasperation, declaring it a failure as an art work. She brought out textbooks on painters such as Paul Cezanne and exhorted me to study the color and brushwork, hoping that perhaps his color palate and subtle gradations of tone would enter my eyes, reflect back into the recesses of my brain, and maybe, just maybe force out the primitive flat planes of local color and obsessive linear details.
Yes. The painting was a failure as a work of western European art. But what Joan Semmel didn’t know and what I didn’t say was that it was Eastern European - that I had been schooled in Ukranian decorative art and wanted to see what would happen if I applied that knowledge to a canvas and called it a painting. I recall that it earned me a low grade in painting that year.

Years later, when Mark Coplan managed to discover this painting at the bottom of a box at my yard sale, I was happy to relinquish it to him, happy to be rid of this vestige of my past. Who could have known at the time that Mark Coplan was a serious collector and that a small piece of history was in the making? But he was attracted to this strange little painting of decorative microbes - microbes painted with the almost microscopic lines of eastern understanding.
So much has happened since the time I painted that strange little thing - years in China, years in Europe, years in New York, years in South Carolina, and a surprise reconnecting to the Ukraine. Sometimes one can come full circle. I painted a protozoan again just for kicks - this time one sporting a whip-like flagellum. The more restrained colors are for the west, details for the east.

1 comment:

harriett said...

What a difference xxx years make!It is fascinating to see the progression in your work . . . your willingness to be transparent is admirable.