Art In History Art Blog
A new artist has joined our community at the Indian Orchard Mills this year who has me stunned and envious. She is Christina Mastrangelo, recently returned from three years of study in Florence, study in the age old tradtion of Academic Realism, such as would have been practiced 200 years ago. She is young and very,very good; one source of my envy. The other is that she practices an approach which I admire greatly, but know I could never emulate.
In one way our vision is very similar: we are both seeking to capture what we see in the world, the truth of form, color and light. On another level, our vision is totally different. Christina paints what is permanent and eternal in reality; I paint what is immediate and transitory. It is very ironic that the still life shown above is titled "Perishables"; they are indeed perishables, but in her vision they will never perish. They have become eternal.
The foundation of her approach is meticulous study of the subject, and control of the light. Of course, still life is the paradigm of artistic control, where everything can be set up exactly as you wish, and lit unchangeably over time. It is probably in still lives that I come closest to the vision of permanence, but even there I bring my natural habit of seeing and recording quickly. Christina has the meticulousness and perfect resolution of all the great still life painters from Claez and Heda to Chardin.
The fundamental staple of academic training is study of the human figure. I have also studied the figure over the years, but here our approaches are more obviously divergent. She has told me that there are 60 hours of work with the model in this charcoal study; I find that well before an hour has passed I have nothing further to record. My best studies are about 20 minutes, enough time to develop the modelling and light, but not to lose the freshness of the first vision. When I try to go beyond 30 minutes, everything goes downhill.
Portraits create yet another balance between the eternal and the transient. To capture an individual, it is important to grasp the uniqueness of a person, which is often seen only in transitory gestures and expressions. Christina's portraits are very sensitive to this transitory data; they don't aim to be eternal in the sense of eliminating everything momentary. But still, to complete her meticulous vision, she needs to control the light and to fix it, in this case with a photograph.
I don't know if Christina has worked in landscape; I haven't seen any. Landscape painting is the least amenable to the kind of contol and stability that she seeks in her work. I recently sold a landscape sketch of the Connecticut River at the opening of my show "Nature's Drama". The buyer wasn't sure why it attracted him more than the others; I speculated that it was because I had to be quicker and stop sooner than usual. It is a scene of scudding clouds and broken light, changing minute by minute. I need to understand and accept that this is my natural vision, what I can do best.