We all met one another during my pastel classes. Margaret took the photographs that I have included in this post, for which I am thankful! Belmont is the former home and studio of Gari Melchers, an artist who was living between the years of 1860 and 1932. At the age of seventeen, his parents sent him to Düsseldorf, Germany, to study art. He then studied in Paris, lived in Holland, and also painted in Brittany, France.
The building was immediately popular and designed with artist’s needs in mind. Other tenants included John LaFarge, Frederick Stuart Church, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens and William Merritt Chase. Through study in art history, I was aware of all of these artists, but not Melchers. I am always fascinated with artists that are new to me, and would not have gone to Melchers’ home and studio without the prompting of my friends. Speaking of friends, while at Belmont, I discovered that Melchers was a friend of the artists Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent.
Despite the heat, the day was practically perfect. It is always a pleasure to be with fellow artists since we tend to speak the same mother tongue. We get excited about things that others rarely notice because we are always on the lookout for inspiration. The gardens at Belmont were lovely. A painting of the area may be in my future.
First, I want to give some background to the series that I have begun. For those of you that are unaware, I have a studio outside my home at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. My studio is housed in Building 4. There are 5 artists that share the building with me. Since we do not have a heavily populated building, we can be creative with the shows that we mount. With that in mind, we are going to have a show celebrating Gay Pride in June. When this theme was suggested, I was all in favor. That said, I was also concerned. HOW was I going to make this theme relate to my work and vice versa? I wracked my brain, lost sleep, talked to friends. In other words, I did what I always do
when I have a problem to solve. I obsessed. My answer came from another friend. This time my friend Janice suggested that the reference photos that I had excitedly shown her were the perfect solution.
I walk in the woods often, and this past mild winter allowed for more walking than I am usually able to comfortably accomplish. Several months ago, I was struck by a puddle of water with magnificent reflections. Layers of leaves were on the ground, and the water reflected the lovely blue of the sky. I was mezmerized. People passing must have thought that the woman taking pictures of the ground was a bit off in the head. These pictures are the inspiration for this painting. I am including the progress of the piece.
When I think of Gay Pride, I think first of looking at the world in a different way. Life is complex. How we live life is complex, and people are complex. Love is certainly complex. There are many layers in our lives. When first looking at this painting many people have asked if it is upside-down. It is not. Being gay is not upside-down either. Being gay is being in the minority. I know a bit about being in the minority, growing up Jewish in West Virginia. This reality made me a bit of an outlier. It also helped to make me accepting of differences in people.
So, when I began this piece, I preferred an ambiguous visual. I have included layers of color, smooth areas, juxtaposed with more texture.These layers symbolize the layers that comprise our inner psyches. The textural differences symbolize the differences in people. The ambiguous nature of the piece indicates that life is not black and white. Life is composed of many areas that are not easily categorized. People are not easily categorized either. The work is more abstract than what I ordinarily make. I made the choice to work more abstractly because that felt like the best way to visualize something as formidable as the quest for understanding and accepting human differences and interactions.
On an even more personal note, my son is gay. I could not be more proud of him. I have been proud of him every day of his life. Gay Pride... you bet!
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