Contemporary American Realism: Ft. Wayne Museum of Art 2008 Biennial

10 September

This coming Saturday, 13 September 2008, the Ft. Wayne Museum of Art will preview their Biennial Realism Show. I was honored to have two paintings chosen to be included, Where There’s Smoke, and Just A Spoon Full.



Below is the invitation and a link to their website. They will be publishing a catalogue of the show which is available there, as well as information on a Symposium: American Realism Explored, on Saturday October 11, 2008 at the museum.



MV Times Article

23 August

Took some extra grit this morning but we did manage to load up our little family and haul our sleepy selves up to the high school for the South Beach Supercharged Walk. Week 2. It’s a lot prettier than the alternating days’ exercise routine…trust me. And it does feel great to get the stiff old joints moving early in the day, come home to a protein filled meal, shower up and be charged up to get right  to work at the easel.

I made a detour today to check email and found a note from friend Jen on the Vineyard, 

” Congratulations once again on MV Times front page.  Great article, but where’s your picture? “.

Here’s a link to that article …


Click on this image to read article.

Click on this image to read article.

Brooks Robards called for an interview last week and we had an interesting conversation about the many interpretations and definitions of REALISM in art today. She pushed me to clarify where I felt my artwork fit into that genre.

People often respond that my paintings “look just like a photograph”, but I am not a Photorealist. not as Estes, Close and Goings and others defined the genre in the 60’s. Here’s a brief definition from Wikipedia..

Photorealist painting cannot exist without the photograph. In Photorealism, change and movement must be frozen in time which must then be accurately represented by the artist.[14] Photorealists gather their imagery and information with the camera and photograph. Once the photograph is developed (usually onto a photographic slide) the artist will systematically transfer the image from the photographic slide onto canvases. This is done by either projecting the slide or grid techniques.[15] The resulting images are often direct copies of the original photograph but are usually larger than the original photograph or slide. This results in the photorealist style being tight and precise, often with an emphasis on imagery that requires a high level of technical prowess and virtuosity to simulate, such as reflections in specular surfaces and the geometric rigor of man-made environs.[16]

20th century photorealism can be contrasted with the similarly literal style found in trompe l’oeil paintings of the 19th century. However, trompe l’oeil paintings tended to be carefully designed, very shallow-space still-lifes, employing illusionistic devices such as the use of shadows to cause small objects to appear to exist above the surface of the painting. (Trompe l’oeil literally means “fool the eye.”) The photorealism movement moved beyond this illusionism to tackle deeper spatial representations (e.g. urban landscapes) and took on much more varied and dynamic subject matter.

In so far as a Photorealist is trying to make their paintings look like an actual photograph they are focusing on a two dimensional product. The craftsmanship has to be strong, the technique flawless, in order to convince the viewer, but the subject matter is static, representing a moment or snapshot in time.

This differs from my goal, at least what I am trying to aim for, which is to uncover layers of meaning and narrative and light from the subjects in my paintings which represents them in an arch of time and history.

I do use photographs for reference when I can’t sit the subject down in front of my easel, but have, sometimes, hundreds of shots that relay information as to detail, design and form. Coupled with sketches and studies over time and in many different conditions of light and space, I build a composition, especially with the still lifes, that often could not exist in the “real” world. Even with the landscapes and figurative work, elements may be altered to enhance the structure of the composition or the narrative. But, hopefully, the essence endures.

I appreciate your generous and kind words about the paintings Brooks, and you got the point that I so clumsily was trying to articulate…that that third dimension is where the difference liesfrom her article,  she (Heather) says, “I aim to be three-dimensional. That’s where the soul comes in. I like having several layers in a painting. You have a whole narrative going, then you step back and look at the title and get a whole other idea. There’s a sense of mystery.”

Light, mystery, the patina of history, and above all a good dose of humble humor…that’s my reality, the realism I try to represent in my work.

I’m not sure which of my artist friends has the time or inclination to read these blog entries…but I would love to continue this conversation. What is your definition of Realism, and how does it inform your artwork?

Chime in and link us to some of your artwork while you’re at it. Opening new windows is what this blog is all about.

And now, it’s time to leave the cyber world and get to the easel…

Stay frosty out there, HN