Pickup Artist

America Martin, By the Sea, 2012, Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, Texas

America Martin, By the Sea, 2012, Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, Texas

Her eyes caught mine and I stopped, mid-step on the crowded staircase at Wally Workman.  It was love at first sight when I didn’t believe in love at first sight. An entrancing  portrait by America Martin. With the kind of lines that make you want to pick it up and take it home. And that’s exactly what I did.

Her eyes turned my head. Like the frank, appraising eyes of this just ravished bather. She turns toward you with an open gaze, hand propping a tilted head.

And curves. Oh Lord, does she have ’em. Double, double-take curves. This woman’s body moves across the canvas like sand dunes undulating, hips rolling before they touch the sea. Pretty peaks and delirious-deep valleys.

Color is a flirt here. At times, filling out the space between lines, emphasizing the form, stepping into the outline. At other times, color dances unrestrained by line. Now, a spontaneous moving  into background, now a free-shift into foreground. Teasing out the feel of the piece. Creating  a slip of ocean or angel-winged reeds.

This work makes you believe in possibility. You can have contentment and yes, maybe even mercurial joy. She calls out your hope, (even if kicking and screaming) and says,” look, it’s in you.” And that’s the seduction of a true pick up artist, my friends. Come and pick up a beauty before last call.

I spy, with my little eye

Kenneth Stubbs, Sunbathers. 1962

Kenneth Stubbs, Sunbathers. 1962

Lets keep exploring the diverse use of pattern by artists this week.  Matisse used power of pattern to echo and repeat, giving motion, harmony and vibrance to his compositions. Here, Stubbs uses pattern as actual building blocks for the bodies themselves. This is no “Where’s Waldo” people, but still lots of fun.

The flat colored shapes contruct the forms of the legs, arms and faces, but also merge and flow together as your eye runs over the painting. A kaleidoscopic whirl of pinwheels and curves. The golden sand, a large anchor for the smaller patterns that comprise the bathers. The blue columns marching behind the forms also lend a strong vertical backdrop for the patterns to play.

I like that each body is created from many colors, like a totem. Which belies a deeper wisdom. We aren’t monolithic at all; we are comprised of various personalities and emotions that join in a patterned dance to make a multifaceted “one.”

I see a clear, almost academic, sense of proportion (Stubbs loved the Golden Ratio) and a strong cubist bent using color to define form and perspective. Can you find the sleeping mother and baby? A menage-a-trios with men in curvy beards? How about the squirrely the children at the right of the painting? A boy in aqua trunks ready to make a break for waves, and a tow headed girl wrangling what might possibly be.  . .  is that a monkey?