By Cissy Geigerman, WAS-H Gallery Co-Director
This month’s theme “Food for Thought” did give us a treat! The gallery was endowed with a beautiful array of paintings portraying food, whether it was gathering, cooking, growing, or simply enjoying a bounty of things to eat. It is always amazing to see the variety of interpretations our participants contribute. Many thanks to our volunteers this month, Mansueto Fabugais, Donna Rybiski, and Leisa Patin. This event was also helped tremendously by the expert guidance of Paula Fowler.
Our judge for this show was Amy C. Evans, an award winning artist, writer, and documentarian. She is a graduate of HSPVA and holds a BFA in printmaking from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Her paintings have appeared in Southern Living, Southern Cultures, and the Oxford American. Her first book, A Good Meal is Hard to Find, features her paintings and writings about southern cooking.
For the show Ms. Evans did her level best to evaluate the offerings and select the winners. Below are her remarks for the winners. As a surprise, though she was not expected to do this, she also recorded brief comments for ALL the paintings. We suppose this was only natural since she IS a writer. Contact Cissy Geigerman to learn her comments about your entry.
Below are remarks from our judge and the artists. As an afterword, please read Larry Spitzberg’s writing on the merits of painting like Winslow Homer.
1st place: Larry Spitzberg – Harvesting
Ms. Evans - This piece really drew me in- the warmth, the brushwork, the action, the subject, the scale. And, for me, it shows a consideration and appreciation for farm workers, which is definitely food for thought.
Larry Spitzberg - The painting is recent but the photo is a few years old. I remember getting out of the car and lugging my heavy camera and zoom lenses to the fields to photograph the laborers bringing in the harvest.
I did the painting twice. I first made a careful drawing of the figures which is unusual for me. I followed the local color throughout and was pleased with the painting. A few days ago I pulled it out to look at it to enter it and thought it was boring and didn’t pop. So I wildly without any thinking and without the original photo for reference added sexy colors like wisteria and rose and darkened the few darks that outlined the figures.
And it “popped”.
2nd place: Diane Cox – Salt and Pepper Three Dollars
Ms. Evans - The subject really speaks to me! I love a good treasure hunt and unique treasures. I also love the humor here, the larger-than-life scale and the vibrant colors. I see the birds in conversation, and I love imagining what they’re saying.
Diane Cox - “Food for Thought” intrigued me as a subject that I haven’t explored with my art work. I looked around my kitchen and realized my collection of salt and pepper shakers would be fun to work with. I also had just recently seen an amazing demo of Aquaboard by Daniela Werneck which inspired me to try Aquaboard. It’s fun to work with, give it a try. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Amy Evans the judge for the show. Amy did the beautiful acrylic paintings for A Good Meal is Hard to Find cookbook. Thank you Amy and everyone at WASH.
3rd Place: Jackie Liddell – Banana Babies
Ms. Evans - I love this piece for its creative use of media – layering of papers, addition of glitter and the bleeding line work that really gives the subject great detail and texture. I also love how I imagine the artist enjoyed the process and let the materials do their thing.
Jackie Liddell - I am inspired by the beauty and found compositions I see in nature all around me. I love tropical settings, so I’ve created a tropical setting in my own backyard. The large banana flowers evolve into stalks of bananas after the trees are a couple of years old. This painting was begun with an underpainting and then drawn freely with a pen that bleeds when water touches the lines. I love the accidents and surprises that occur. Making my own collage papers and gluing them down was another fun addition to this painting. Painting is a journey. There is no end to the possibilities that transparent watercolor with mixed media can take you.
HM1 : Fontaine Jacobs – Jelly Prep
Ms. Evans - Wow, I love this piece! Appreciate the physicality of the markmaking, reductive moments, texture, pattern, light, so much action and yet it reads like glass because of the light achieved.
Fontaine Jacobs - I have been fascinated with painting glass subjects for a while. On Yupo, the reflections, textures, and highlights are such fun to do. Obstacles on Yupo are few as you can wipe out an area if it is not working, and try again. I have painted wine glasses, martini glasses, highball glasses, and canning jars with this same technique. I’m always searching for glass subject matter to paint on Yupo.
HM2: Leslie McDonald – Fettucine
Ms. Evans - The technical quality of this piece is outstanding, love the contrast and sharp edges, especially around the tomato. The quality of light is outstanding.
From a discussion with Les McDonald - A permissioned photo was used for the basis of this painting. Starting with a precise drawing, the background is a dark black made from a rich mix of 3 primary colors. To make the long edges for the fork handle and tines, a special brush very much like a rigger, but longer and wider is useful. It can take some time to practice making smooth edges.
HM3: Judith Lutkus – La Cucini Italiana
Ms. Evans - I love that this is a still life within a landscape while getting both within a unique “built” environment. Creative composition and use of materials. Great texture.
Judith Lutkus - The inspiration for my painting, "La Cucina Italiana", was the memory of my mother's kitchen. I am of Italian descent. I work in acrylic and mixed media with an emphasis on shapes and balance and harmony. My favorite subject is imagined still life, usually abstracted in some aspect, and at times, using contour drawing as a starting point. I like to warp perspective to help create an interesting design. Here I wanted to create an idea of an Italian kitchen and show the basic ingredients of Italian food. I used flexible modeling paste to make an imagined tile floor and put a window in the background showing an Italian village. I placed part of a table flat against this background in a warped perspective. The vegetables and olive oil jug were painted realistically.
From Larry Spitzberg, an afterword:
The Maverick, Winslow Homer
As an avid reader of watercolor art history, I always enjoy most reading about the negative reception that anything new seems to bring out in the general population and especially the art critics. You might enjoy knowing that even Winslow Homer was considered a maverick when he first showed his watercolors.
Examples are the Impressionists who got their name given by an unsympathetic critic from Monet’s painting “Impression Sunrise”. The critic Louis Leroy in 1874 wrote that “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this seascape!”
And the word Fauvists from the French Fauves means Wild Beasts!
The watercolor medium is most commonly associated with Britain during the period extending roughly from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century – the so-called Golden Age of watercolor. The tradition began with detailed drawings in graphite or ink and tinted with a restricted range of colored washes. These were later deprecatingly described to watercolor paintings as only “tinted drawings”.
Yet I am still surprised at the reaction of some of the critics to an American icon of watercolor painting, Winslow Homer. We consider Homer’s paintings so mainstream and so much the epitome of watercolor today!
In the book The Watercolors of Winslow Homer by Miles Unger, he writes that “What distinguished Homer’s approach from the beginning was the freedom with which he put brush to paper. Writing in 1875 for the Art Journal, one critic complained: “Mr. Homer’s style is wonderfully vigorous and original; with a few dashes of the brush, he suggests a picture, but a mere suggestion only, and it is a mistaken eccentricity which prevents finish”. In a language that was to echoed frequently in his lifetime, another critic described his watercolors as “mere memorandum blots and exclamation points”, though he went on to say, with an ambivalence typical of contemporary responses, that the artists pictures were so “pleasant to look at, we are almost content not to ask Mr. Homer for a finished piece”.
So be a maverick like Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, and even like Winslow Homer!