Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Beautiful floating heads....

A little while ago on facebook, I remarked on what I thought was one specific artist's work, actually was a whole bunch of different artists creating similar-looking work - the depressed/sad, big-eyed gothic dolly paintings.  Learned that a lot of it was possibly influenced by the "Big Eyes" art of the 60's-70's, but I was specifically referring to modern-day work I was seeing at festivals, stores, etc.  Not my particular cup of tea, I didn't really retain who did it, I just noted the style/look - so my surprise when I'm at a show and I see a table of it, and then another, and then another, and realizing they all have different names attached.  And well, that's nothing new in the art world - subject matter and styles tend to mushroom in certain peer groups (think about the Cubists or the Impressionists, etc) and with the internet, it can spread even more.

Another similar group I've been noticing more and more in alternative circle as well is what I will call "the beautiful floating heads."  The subject matter tends to be some sort of beautiful woman's head, against a mostly empty background, with decorative and natural elements.  There was a show of these sorts of paintings at a cafe my husband and I stopped at the other day.  I found the paintings beautiful, but something bugged me.  And it felt like the same thing that bugged me about the big-eyed dollies.  

I came to the conclusion that it's the emptiness of the figures...that the eyes are empty, and that the female bodies seem to be just vehicles for beauty.  That they seem plastic, without power.

Maybe that's the point? I don't know, I'd have to ask each artist to find out why they do what they do - but then again, shouldn't the art tell me that?  And what it makes it different from all of the nudes and figure drawings from the last few centuries, or any part in any culture's artwork?Again, I don't know.

But I'm pretty sure I don't want it in my work. I want my figures to address the viewer, and to have something to share of their experience.   I want them to have power. I don't want them to be just pretty design elements.

Yes, I see the irony of me being a big fan of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, but I also strongly feel that Mucha especially breathed life into his figures - that they had something to say beyond selling a product...especially his mural work and other paintings.

I think, in the bigger picture regarding the dollies and the floating heads - it's not the trend or similarities behind all of the works that bugs me, or the crafting of the work, which is usually very good to very high quality - amazing execution - which could be a big root of their popularity.  So my intent is not to dis the makers of these works in any way.  But rather to address the way they make me feel, and inspired my work. 

So the inspiration/plan for this series of paintings I'm working on - is taking at least 16 women from myths/history who have been reduced or flattened into a stereotype, and give them back their power.  We shall see how it goes.