Sunday, October 31, 2010

Analyze Art by looking at Intensity, Complexity and Unity

I was recently contacted by Emily Tenenbaum, a Savannah College of Art & Design painting student because she was doing a paper about my work for her Color and The Painted Image class, analyzing it for "Intensity, Complexity and Unity".  I also enjoyed seeing Emily's work, here is one of her paintings. Nice to meet you Emily-Best wishes for a wonderful painting career! Here is her essay reprinted with permission.

"My Boobs Look Way Too Small in This Dress" by Emily Tenenbaum

Terry Strickland Introduction
by: Emily Tenenbaum
Terry Strickland’s energetic paintings are important additions to Contemporary Art and Realism. Her paintings provide an important female perspective not only with her narrative content, but also by incorporating strong metaphors and symbolism. Her intensity derives not only from her execution, but also by addressing the traditional themes of life, death, and love.   The work has historical ties to literature and also some of the influence of masterful figurative painters such as Titian and Ingres. Strickland’s paintings reinvent subjects like the reclining nude, aspects of magic realism, and even the depiction of superheroes.

Surprisingly, Strickland does not have as much  notoriety as some of her other female contemporaries, yet she continues to excel especially with her upcoming show “Women Painting Women”.  She also has been a part of other feminist painting projects. Sadie Valeri, a San Francisco artist and teacher created the Women Painting Women blog to highlight the work of living, realist women painters who use the female subject in their paintings. They've listed over 300 artists and can now be found on facebook as well.

Her background working as an illustrator, printmaker, and even a courtroom sketch artist has undoubtedly influenced her aesthetics. Her models play a crucial role in aiding Terry to address the long tradition of the gaze. She usually asks her models to make eye contact with the viewer so that there are “three people involved in an intriguing triangle… the viewer, the subject, and the artist”. Strickland is working in Birmingham Alabama and has a daughter who attends SCAD. She went to school at the University of Central Florida for graphic design and was eventually led back to painting in 1994. She has actually shown in Savannah at the Whitney Gallery a few years ago. 

Strickland’s painting, Voice of the Tiger, depicts a young woman, probably in her twenties, standing in a field. She is dressed in attire similar to that of a Circus performer. Behind her is a circus banner with a tiger ready to attack. The text “Brave and Bold” is directly behind the model. Utilizing not only naturalistic light and figure in a vast landscape, Strickland engages her audience by implying some sort of narrative. Because of the nature of Strickland’s painting and the title, viewers must assume that the “Brave and Bold” and the courage of the tiger belong to the female protagonist. 

The woman stands with one hand firmly on her tip with a driven expression on her face. This raises the question that perhaps this could be a metaphor for the strength of the female artisan considering this piece was made for a show called “Woman painting Woman”. The female also intensifies the scene by engaging the viewer, almost as if to assert herself and her place in the world. She is not depicted as a sexual object to men; rather she is in a rather androgynous costume with a cane and even a straw hat. Nothing about this piece idealizes this woman’s beauty.

Strickland’s use of role play heightens the drama of the scene. The starkness of the scene also demands the viewer’s attention. Her attention to details in everything from the text on the banner to the mountainous landscape in the background makes this painting other worldly. There is an intense quiet that exist, which heightens not only the narrative, but also incites contemplation about what the protagonist is thinking. 

Terry Strickland approaches painting in a manner similar to that of the traditional oil painters.  She is able to balance both the intense warms in things like suspenders and also incorporate cools which help the landscape recede in space. Her process of achieving this realism derives from a strong pencil drawing on canvas to solidify the structure.

To mix it better with the painting she goes over it in permanent sepia. She then does a rub out painting with burnt umber as the under painting. This allows her to get the correct values and build up to more complex colors.  She also understands where to use dull colors to create focal shifting.

 She creates an important transition in the landscape by making a stage like presence out of an ordinary field. The complexity of the rendering speaks for itself. The age of the banner is evident as well as the variety of marks in the piece. We understand the textures which make up the field as well as the direction of the tiger’s gaze.

Terry unifies her painting by choosing to use a perfect square format and include a smaller square with the giant banner behind the figure. Terry also has many smaller triangles within the square, which adds to the overall achievement of a stronger composition. There are smaller triangles as well with the protagonist’s arm and between the head of the girl, the tiger’s head and the hat.

The colors are unified by providing an accurate light source as well as assuming a time of day and mood of the piece.  Unity is also evident by the careful placement of objects. None of the elements detract from the viewer. They are important both formally and symbolically to the painting.

List of colors usually in Strickland’s palate:
Burnt umber, raw umber, transparent oxide orange, ivory black, titanium white, cadmium red, permanent red violet, permanent madder deep, cobalt violet, permanent blue violet, pthalo blue-green, cobalt blue, ultramarine, chromium oxide green.

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful, Terry, to be the subject of this young woman's paper. Well deserved!



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