One to Another

May 6, 2010

Pendant pairs of a different sort.

Filed under: 2-Precedents, 5-Related Topics, 6-On Exhibit — pendantportraits @ 9:24 pm

I am working with a group of students in PNTG 415 Painting Senior Seminar. As part of this course, the students mount a group exhibition of new work on a mutually-determined them. The group selected: (id) entity. As they discussed their work, I got an idea of my own, and they welcomed me to join the show as an exhibitor.

In years past, I’ve studied and worked with handwriting analysis on an amateur basis. For the work in this show, I prepared two pieces of archival paper with layers of coffee washes. The washes are more heavily applied within an oval template. Within one of the ovals, I asked the students to write, “identity.” In the other, more or less across from the first, I asked them to place their signature. The works will be presented together within one frame.

The oval window is a sign of the portrait – it stands for the concept of portraiture as icon (the oval is the shape of the face) and symbol (the oval is a convention within Western portraiture). The signature piece, in particular, strikes me as a group portrait. The scale of the signatures varies greatly, and each artist necessarily had to place their signature in relationship to all other signatures that were already made. Scale and placement are metaphors for how, as a group, everyone must work together.

Nani at Ex Libris Frame Shop will frame these. She had a left-behind frame (e. g., a steal) with burl veneer that she can cut down to size. I decided to float the drawings (writings) rather than use an overlay mat. The ovals that are created by the difference in the density of the washes are adequate.


April 20, 2010

SECAC 2010 Panel / Paper Proposal Abstracts

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 9:35 pm

As part of this fellowship, I agreed to submit a related topic for a panel; and if this was not accepted, to submit a related paper abstract.

On December 28, 2010, I submitted the following panel abstract; and although I did not receive word that it was rejected, the absence of confirmation led me to know that it was not selected for the conference.

Portraiture: pointless or purposeful?
If you told the truth, don’t you (maybe secretly) like to look at portraits? And, why is it that people own portraits of strangers?
Michael Archer wrote that “Portrait art has never been more pointless” in an August 24 review. Archer defines the relationship between portrait subject and portrait maker as a commercial transaction when, in fact, many great historical and contemporary portraits did not involve an exchange of money. This panel examines the function of contemporary portraiture in which neither the artist nor the subject were paid during the creation of the work.

•    Who, if anyone, has created portraits that have anything to do with contemporary art?
•    What is the role of artifice and authenticity in portraiture?
•    How is technology expanding, redirecting, or replacing the role of portraiture?
•    Why does a contemporary artist make portraits (what does this give to them)?
•    Has contemporary family structure impacted the function of portraiture?
•    Can portraiture carry a cultural critique?
•    Is portraiture empowered or handicapped by the fact that it is a (painfully) traditional form?

Papers are invited from artists, curators, and historians who have explored these and related issues.

On April 20, 2010 I submitted a paper abstract to Michelle Moseley-Christian from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, the chair of a panel with the title “About Face.”

On May 3, I received word that the paper abstract, below, was accepted.

Companion Portraiture and the Contemporary Family
The companion portrait form bespeaks rigid convention, and in many ways, exclusion; consequently, it presents a conceptual opportunity. The content of this paper is based on a yearlong fellowship project, in which contemporary families, such as same-sex and multi-racial couples as well as others, are placed within this bastion of tradition. In this way, this project is an inquiry into 21st century family structure. Along with presentation of the studio production of this project, the paper will highlight historical companion portraits of particular interest and relevance. Additionally, this paper comments upon the presumption that portraiture is motivated by commercial exchange.

December 5, 2009

12/05/09 “Couples Discourse”

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 4:33 pm

The exhibition, “Couples Discourse,” was co-curated by Micaela Amateau and Robinson; and was on exhibition at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University from October 10 through December 22, 2006.  Here is the PSU Press’ synopsis of the exhibition catalog:

“In his book A Lover’s Discourse, Roland Barthes attempted to theorize the language used by lovers to describe each other. It is arguably a text about loneliness, suggesting that even romantic language confesses the distance that always exists between people-if we could achieve perfect unity with others, language would not be necessary. This book is about how “couples” discourse-about the ways in which artists cope with the social connections and practicalities of being artists in a couple. It is about the commonalities as well as the differences, the intimacies as well as the public articulations-in other words, the negotiations that are required in any relationship.

It might be a truism to say that the very notion of “the couple” is undergoing significant transformation at the moment. Legal changes now allow many same-sex marriages in the United States, even as increasing numbers of people both gay and straight choose to enjoy unions and family structures beyond such conventional forms. Now is, of course, the perfect time to investigate more carefully the ways in which artists construct and articulate their position as “couples.” Co-curated by Joyce Henri Robinson, curator, and Micaela Amato, professor of art and women’s studies, Penn State, Couples Discourse features work by twenty-one artist-couples including ~

Eleanor and David Antin,                    Nene Humphrey and Benny Andrews,     Patricia Cronin and Deborah Kass,

Joyce and Max Kozloff,                        Helen and Brice Marden,                             Gladys Nilsson and Jim Nutt,

Lisa Sigal and Byron Kim,                   Nancy Spero (recently widowed),               Roy Dowell and Lari Pittman,

Julie Burleigh and Catherine Opie,    Deborah Willis (recently divorced),          Betty and George Woodman,

Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Robert Mangold.”

Jana Emmer told me about this exhibition. I met her at SECAC 2009 in Mobile while waiting for the conference bus to take us to the Mobile Museum of Art. I’ll make a faculty request for the catalog to be purchased for the college’s collection.

November 27, 2009

11/27/09 An Evening at the Met

Filed under: 3-Museum visits, 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 9:26 pm

The early evening drive from Yonkers to Manhattan was direct and fast. Jacque parked in the garage, so it was mere steps into the museum, Jesse’s first Met visit.

We began in the exhibition of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, and then went our own ways, until rejoining for refreshments. I stayed in the Vermeer exhibition for a long while, relishing the density of works in the four small rooms of the exhibition. The Vermeers are like low resolution digital images that look pretty clear from a distance (zoomed out), yet the closer one gets (zoomed in), the less detailed the works reveal themselves to be. The forms are out of visual reach. I purchased the slender soft-cover exhibition publication for the color images and details. The text spends too much time creating a premise for the sexual allusions of the work; however, the discussion of the work’s provenance was interesting. This is only the second time that The Milkmaid has been in the U.S.; John and I saw the work at the Rijksmuseum in 1993.

The Watteau and Music exhibition was also in its final days. The drawings were gems, fresh and light, and beautifully matted with stacked layers, and French lining. The Watteau paintings were both bold and delicate, particularly the ones on copper, and the inclusion of Meissen figurines in the show was the complement that was intended. I bought the catalog for John (which he had requested). It is an excellent publication, so I chose the hard cover.

The Velazquez Rediscovered exhibition was in the adjacent gallery. The featured, recently-cleaned painting, possibly a self-portrait, was exquisite, using paint like a couture designer combines fabrics. The portrait head of the Infanta Margarita Teresa was remarkable.

On our walk to the American Stories exhibition, we passed through the American period rooms, where there were a couple of companion portraits. One entered the American Stories exhibition by passing between an oversized pair of companion portraits.

The American Stories exhibition was a sprawling delight, so many artists without which our American cultural lineage would be incomplete. It was a great show to see with a seven year old. For instance, the opening volley was Copley’s Watson and the Shark paired with Homer’s Gulfstream. The next room in the show dealt with portraits, where I learned from a double portrait of two sisters that a woman’s eligibility for marriage may be signaled by her pose. If she is of age, she may be shown frontally; if not, then, in profile.

The work of Winslow Homer stood out to me, for its embedded meaning and for its powerful projection from a distance. The wall text provided a visual bonus for many of his paintings: photographic documentation of the works as first exhibited or published to compare to the work in their final state.

November 14, 2009

11/09 On Exhibit – deFINE ART 2009.

Filed under: --Don & Clare, 5-Related Topics, 6-On Exhibit — pendantportraits @ 5:02 pm

My portrait drawings of Don S. and Clare S. were juried into deFINE ART 2009.

November 3, 2009

10/09 On Exhibit – Nat’l Juried Exhibit

Filed under: --Joe & Hilary, 5-Related Topics, 6-On Exhibit — pendantportraits @ 5:21 pm

The companion portrait drawings of Joe and Hilary were selected for exhibition at the Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna State University in Pennsyvlania for a National Figurative Exhibition. I placed the paired works within one frame, using a mat with two oval windows.

The works were created with coffees washes on sketchbook paper, drawn with Conte and graphite. Each drawing took less than an hour. Although the works are not for sale, here’s what I paid to present the works in this exhibition.

$25      The submission fee for this juried exhibition was reasonable.

$75       Mat. No local frame shop was able to cut a customized oval, much less two ovals within one mat. It was necessary to have a local sign company cut ovals in a 8 mm polyvinylacrylate (PVC) mat with their CNC machine. I painted the PVC mat with acrylic paint (several layers, plus detailing around the oval windows).

$135      I selected a frame with subtle engraving on the 3/4″ profile face in a deep warm red from the Ex Libris Framing. The cost included plexiglas, assembly, finishing of the back, and completion within a quick turn around time. The price included an exhibition discount.

$107     Packing, insurance and shipping (roundtrip) were another cost.

The total cost to present these works to the public in this exhibition is $342.

August 31, 2009

08/31/09 Beyond Commerce.

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 9:11 pm

Gertrude Stein by Picasso, 1906 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The August 24 edition of the free weekly online arts newsletter, Artsjournal, included an article by Michael Archer from the Guardian UK titled “Portrait art has never been more pointless.”

Archer defines the relationship between portrait subject and portrait maker as a commercial transaction when, in fact, many of the greatest portraits did not involve an exchange of money (they were neither a commissions nor was the subject a paid model).

The name of this website, One to Another, is based on the relationship that exists between me and the portrait subject, as well as (more apparently) the relationship between the subjects of the companion works. When payment is not part of the creative equation, work is a collaboration, a joint project.

Profile as metaphor.

Filed under: 2-Precedents, 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 4:00 pm

Roberti_1480_GiovanniIlBentivoglio_54x39cm_NGA Roberti_1480_Ginevra_Bologna_54x39cm_NGA

Inexpensive prints of these famous portraits by Roberti from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. have been on display in our home for more than fifteen years. At the moment, they are in our kitchen. Giovanni Il Bentivoglio is shown at left; his wife, Ginevra, is at right. Painted around 1480, the urban landscape (Bologna) behind them is continuous, which puts the subjects at an intimate distance from one another, literally, at arm’s reach. Desire H. thought that their posture and gestures suggested that, outside of the image area, they were holding hands.

“Profile portraits were probably preferred because they recall imperial likenesses on ancient Roman coins” < 072909>. The bride and groom coins, below, are Roman companion portraits. Septimius Severus is shown on the coin at left, and Julia Domna, his wife, is shown in a separate coin at right. Both coins are from 194 AD. The coins are discussed at length in “My Favorite Coin” and “Bride of My Favorite Coin” at <>.  Smith was given the Julia Domna coin on the occasion of his 30th wedding anniversary.



Another very famous portrait pair, at right, features the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero de la Francesca.

In terms of form, the profile view presents the broad depth of the head in parallel perspective to the picture plane. It imposes stillness and formality that are appealing; and which have associations with the ideals of marriage and of empire (continuity and permanence).

Oval formats.

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 3:55 pm

The similarity between the shape of the human head and an oval is most likely the main reason that the oval has such a close association with portraiture. It appears in relationship to portraiture in one of five ways (my categories):

1) Oval-shaped support (frame may be oval or octagonal);

2) Physical overlay (mat with oval window, usually found in works on paper);

3) Illusionist porthole (usually painted as an architectural opening in a wall);

4) Illusionist overlay (painted or drawn to appear as though there is a mat with an oval window); and

5) Decorative (graphic) treatment of corners around oval portrait area (usually prints and drawings).

I’ll provide examples of each in future posts.


Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 3:49 pm

A portrait subject gives the artist working from life many gifts.

In the final paragraph of Girl in Hyacinth Blue by author Susan Vreeland, Magdalena, one of Vermeer’s eight daughters, describes these:

“Their eyes, the particular turn of a head, their loneliness or suffering or grief was borrowed by an artist to be seen by other people throughout the years who would never see them face to face” (242).

Thank you to my friends, colleagues, and neighbors for your gifts — time, flexibility, expressive leeway, and your countenance! The name of this website, One to Another, is based on the relationship that exists between me and the portrait subject, as well as (more apparently) the relationship between the subjects of the companion works.

Bellini’s chiaroscuro.

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 3:46 pm


Self-Portrait by Giovanni Bellini 1480

The warm tones concentrate in darker areas. Notice how Bellini lowered the tone of the background adjacent to the illuminated (left) side of his hat, and made the background lighter in the area adjacent to the shaded (right) side of his face. This creates a tactile depth and counter-change of value (chiaroscuro). The still subject is animated by the alternation of value across the surface of the page, and at the same time, maintains a plastic (sculptural) quality.

Some Portrait Texts.

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 3:25 pm

Portraiture by Shearer West (SCAD library)

Holbein Portrait Drawings by Dover Art Library

Lessons from the Masters by Robert Beverly Hale

A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord

Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych by Hand, Metzger, Spronk (SCAD library)

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Classical Painting Atelier by Juliette Aristides

Painting People: Figure Painting Today by Charlotte Mullins

The Portrait Now by Sandy Nairne and Sarah Howgate

Portraiture by Richard Brilliant

The Art and Science of Portraiture by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

August 23, 2009

Sketching Set

Filed under: 5-Related Topics — pendantportraits @ 1:25 am

Here are the contents of the pocket sketching set that I’ve used this summer.

A small metal box originally contained a six-pencil graphite set. I kept three of the pencils (HB, 3B, 6B) and traded out the others for a white charcoal pencil, a white Pitt pastel pencil, and a raw sienna Pitt pastel pencil. A tortillon (paper stump), a bit of kneaded eraser, and fragments of Conte in white, pale gray, gray, and red are tucked in as well. A small chamois for blending, a sheet of sandpaper, and a single-edged razor blade (for pointing up  the pencils) fit into the lid.

(photo pending)

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