Three On The Side, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 8x10
Last week, in response to my question asking what viewers here were seeing in a portrait that I painted (see the post here) I received this response from anonymous:
I see paintings lacking in subject matter. They are all about technique, and that is not interesting enough. They don't tell a story. I can't imagine a gallery being able to sell this work. Just being honest. Look at Eric Fischl. Look at what he is doing with tension, a stories being a told. These are just a painting of a photo of a grandma. If the viewer does not know this person, it boring. It's just lacking so much. Stick with it, but grow.
Normally, I don't pay much attention to anonymous comments; I tend to believe that if one can't stand up and put their name to their own words then they probably shouldn't be saying them. But obviously the internet just breeds anonymous comments and so I don't think my opinion on that matters much.
But, anonymous brought up some points that have been on my mind with this series of paintings so I have decided to address this comment.
I see paintings lacking in subject matter. Yes, that concerns me. That also has been an issue for me with my landscapes. I would like to have more content, be more narrative in my work, knock viewers over the head with my opinions about politics, religion, the environment, etc. But I am not that kind of an artist. I express my feelings about what I see. That's what I do. It might be successful, it might not be, but that is how and why I make art. Period.
Over the years though, I have noticed that plenty of people see a lot of stories in my landscapes and now in the People You Know series. My conclusion on that is that the viewer has some responsibility concerning what they bring to a piece of art. Some viewers will understand what I am trying to express, some will find their own meaning, and others, like anonymous, will see nothing. I am ok with that. In fact, knowing that my work can affect people in so many different ways is very gratifying to me.
I can't imagine a gallery being able to sell this work. My response to this one is very clear: I don't really care if a gallery can sell this work. Friends and even my own husband have been telling me all along that these won't sell. But that is totally not my intent here at all. Now that's not to say that I wouldn't like to sell these paintings at some point and yes, I do plan on submitting them to galleries and juried shows just to see what will happen. Either way though, I will keep going. As an artist, I need this challenge and I am incredibly drawn to telling the stories that I see in these old photographs. I am pursuing this series because I want to. Figurative work can be a tough sell, and I'd be crazy to be worrying about all that. Sheesh!
Stick with it, but grow. Well, duh. Isn't that always the hope and the inevitable result of continually creating art? My landscapes have changed a lot over the last five years. Sometimes after I have had some personal issues, a professional setback OR a success (actually, not so much after that, a success often messes me up:)). But mostly the growth has occurred gradually because I have kept painting, painting painting. I do not doubt that that will happen with the People You Know series as well. But if it doesn't, well so what? I really get to do what I want here.
I appreciate the fact that someone has a negative opinion about these portraits, like I said previously, that fact makes this all the more intriguing to me. And after receiving this comment I felt I needed to more completely formulate my thoughts and intent concerning this work, and that is always good.