Venetian Graces


I borrowed the Three Graces from the Piccolimini Library at the Duomo in Siena (from a photograph that I took), and placed them in another landscape (or is it a seascape?), this time a Venetian fantasy. I mentioned my fixation with the interplay between interior exterior spaces in my post on Raw Siena. What strikes me about Italy is how people’s private lives seem to spill out into public spaces, and it is my pet theory that this manifests in Italian art. Think of the Mona Lisa. She seems to be sitting inside, yet outside, the mountains in the background are distinctly portrayed, not as a decorative motif, but as something important.

What I particularly like about this collage (actually, I guess it’s more of a painting since the only collaged element is the photograph of the sculpture of the Three Graces), is the topsy-turvy nature of it. That certainly makes me think of Venice! The sky looks like water, and the water like fields of grain or a plain surrounding the city. Everything seems to sway or at least tip, since the ground subsides, and buildings lean. Plus, riding on the vaporetto (the motor launches that go from place to place) gives one sea-legs, and I found myself feeling like I was still at sea while standing on land.

Raw Siena

Here is another collage, like A Debt in Venice, meant to integrate ideas from my Italian junket (actually my IDSVA residency!) with work that I have already been doing. In this case, I reused a panel that was an abstracted landscape painting (in acrylic) and added a photographic element. In this case, the photo was of a marble sculpture of the Graces in the Piccolimini Library at the Duomo in Siena that I took. I removed the frescos that appeared behind the Three Graces, turning them into the Tuscan blue sky, not because they weren’t fantastic, but because I was inspired by them in a rather peculiar way. I layered thin paper over everything. It gave a nice tooth, and then I repainted certain sections (which are more vivid).
Because the spectacular frescos [] gave one a sense of being inside and outside a the same time, I wanted to depict the Graces also as being inside and outside simultaneously. Something struck me about the three-dimensional ladies living in a room whose walls were covered with two-dimensional depictions of space. So, I wanted to show the ladies in an inside-outside landscape, with the architectural elements behind them as a kind sham ruin. Note that the arches are “real” in that they are the actual architectural elements of the library wall and ceiling, but they are also depicted in the frescos, so the “real” interior extends illusionistically into the frescos. I’m planning to go further in this exploration of interior exteriors, but I need to make some more images. Writing helps clarify ideas; it sets the stage, so to speak, for what ultimately needs to be expressed visually.

A Debt in Venice

Now that I’m in a PhD program in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory (at IDSVA), I feel that I ought to say something profound about the works of art that I’m making. But—perhaps this is a good thing—I find it more difficult to write about the work that to actually make it. Part of the problem, I realize, is a desire to give an explanation in the correct context. Doing so, however, makes me feel obligated to go back to the beginning of whatever train of thought that manifests itself in the art. That’s ironic, though, because in the works of art themselves, I never feel compelled to do that. Visually, it seems to me that the context is built in, since a work of art creates its own world to exist in. An explanatory text, on the other hand, seems forlorn: “If I, Little Text, were more interesting, I’d be a work of art, too!”

This painted collage, entitled A Debt in Venice, was started at Spannocchia Castle during my residency there with IDSVA. The original collaged elements were the phallic constructions flanking the figure. Those are actually Italian cheeses, not penises! The figure is not a collage, but a drawing based on an Adonis statue of late Antiquity, that I subsequently painted. The background is an abstracted landscape that I sketched several years ago and never painted, but turned from “landscape” to “portrait.” What I wanted to do was to assimilate the experiences of my time in Italy from the perspective of being back home in Seattle. I was inspired to do (what I hope is blatantly) homo-erotic imagery, inspired by the candid discussions of sexuality during our IDSVA residency, with a particular (or perhaps I mean peculiar?) nod to George Smith’s lectures on Freud. George let it all hang out, so to speak. . .The title A Debt in Venice is an homage to Thomas Mann. The Hotel des Bains from A Death in Venice was a short walk from our hotel on the Lido. My thanks to Simonetta Moro for pointing it out. I would have never remembered since I read Death many years ago!