Friday, December 24, 2010

Hey, I Know That Place

This is a 3'x4' acrylic painting I did in college, my daughter, Carly, has the painting with her now at college. The painting was inspired by a trip to Florence I took my sophomore year. I just came across an essay she did about it for her Art History class a couple years ago and I'm sharing it with you.

Do you have a piece of art you grew up with and if so how do you feel about it?
 "Florence", 3'x4', acrylic and sand on canvas, 1980, Terry Strickland

Hey, I Know That Place
by: Carly Strickland

     The painting illustrates the Florence cityscape on a 4’ by 3’ canvas.  The buildings are made of pastel geometric shapes, a sharp contrast to the deep navy sky, and there is little in the way of three-dimensional illusion.  They have multi-colored windows and rooftops. They are crammed together properly showing the tight conditions of the city as well as creating an eerie two-dimensional, abstract design.  The artist chose to not use any lines, and instead relied on distinct and sharp color change to distinguish the different structures.
     The city crouches in the bottom half of the canvas, pressed down by the midnight blue sky.  The two pieces, the city and the sky, are anchored together by one dark building front and center.  Only two mathematically precise domes are brave enough to venture into the heavens.  They are the most detailed and the most realistic objects in the composition.  The larger of the two has circular windows around the top, as well as a delicate bell tower peeking out from behind it, identifying it as the Santa Maria del Fiore.
     The radiating chapels are shaded with a zigzag pattern, and not with the mathematical precision of the larger domes.  This confuses the eye, and they cease to be domes, but half circles.  The zigzags are the only organic shape in the paintings and distract from the geometry of the piece.  The acrylic paint used is mixed with sand, for a impressionistic look, but with a fraction of the paint that it would take to achieve the same texture with only paint.  The shadows of the sand create a flurry of movement in a serenely still image. Event the solid blue sky is moving.  The artist’s brushstrokes create a wave like pattern, reminiscent of the ocean.
    This piece properly depicts a city I’ve never been too, but can only imagine. The city is old and settled into place like an elderly man and his worn out, plaid armchair. He’s anchored in, and none of his grandchildren had better try and take his seat, or they’ll get a thump to the head. By no means is it dead, though. There’s still a huge amount of movement between the tourists, art conservationists, and the locals; whom I imagine complain about the other two.
    The painting hangs in my living room.  My mother painted it when she was in college and has been displayed in every home we’ve lived in.  Now it hangs in my college apartment, inspiring me that, yes, some day, maybe I can be great like her.  Maybe I can have a career making the art that I want to make, even if I have to start with a low paying job designing surfing shirts.  It reminds me of the effort I’m going to have to make, and it’s not going to be easy. 

     When I was a child, I didn’t realize it was a landscape.  It didn’t look like any place that I’d ever seen.  I first accepted it as an abstract.  Once my mother tried to explain it to me when I asked, but instead of “Italy,” I simply heard, ”Somewhere that’s not here.”  Images of Arabians, the French, and people in togas flooded the streets in my mind.  It became a made up place, a silly place where nothing was really the way it should be.
     The image of the main oculus has haunted my nightmares.  Its glaring pink eye has always been a source of unease with me.  It looms over my city of many cultures, keeping watch and order.  Did it watch me too?  It wasn’t until I came to college that I fully grasped the location of the piece, even after I had dismissed the Arabs.  I was bombarded with images of Florence.  After a week of being in class, nodding to myself, “I would like to go there someday,” I came home and sat on my couch.  My eyes drifted to the painting, and I said, “Hey, I know that place…” There’s no rush to go there, it’s come to me.
    As long as the sand and paint stick to the canvas, it’s going with me wherever I may settle. It’s my little Italy, and reminds me of everything I believe art stands for: knowledge, spirituality, the classics, love, and beauty.


  1. A peek behind the scenes... Maybe when I retire I can take an art appreciation class and get beyond the like, don't like, or admire-but-don't-desire phase of looking at art.

  2. Sounds like you already have the basics of "Art Appreciation":)



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