This post is about a painting i did based on the architecture from The Bethlehem Steel factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This painting was exhibited at The Visual Art Center of New Jersey, in a show titled- Guide Ropes and Live Wires in 2016.
Subject matter for artists is an interesting concept to unpack. What an artist chooses can vary greatly as he may be working with a preconceived narrative, or he may unexpectedly find a thing that produces a visceral response- motivating him to grab brushes and paint. In the end the magic will be expressed through artistic honesty. Painting for me is a trace of effort, understanding and a marker of self-awareness.
When standing in front of this metal landscape my peripheral vision was filled to capacity, its vertical and horizontal industrial masses were analogous to an apocalyptic backdrop in a Hollywood movie. The contrast of the massive geometric configurations against the blue sky made my mouth water as I began to crop and compose the arrangements. I had only the challenge of animating their gesture on the flat canvas. However this was not an easy task when dealing with their precise graphic angles and hard edges. This kind of subject delivers a challenge as it can easily become a cold boring architectural rendering- I had to remind myself through the process that my brushwork must remain perfectly imperfect if I was to have anything interesting to say with paint. It has been said that one has an idea in his head and than he finds this image real. There are several theories that account for perceptual expression and one in particular seems to resonate with me. There is a theory that the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wofflin wrote about in 1866- "the organization of our own bodies is the form that determines our appreciation of all physical bodies." Historically we know that much of architecture were based on human proportions. However the morphology of Bethlehem's iron giants were designed solely for their function of producing copious amounts of steel, and their expressive and beautiful perceptual forces were not considered in their creation.
It has been said that we artists end up painting ourselves...I titled my painting in honor of this- Self portrait.
40" by 60" oil on canvas.
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