Sunday, May 22, 2011

City Island and Maxfield Parrish

There are many mysterious places along the waterways of N.Y. One of my favorites is City Island, The Bronx. It is quite far from Manhattan, though the distant spires can be glimpsed miles away. Figuratively, too, it is far from the city. Its ambience is of another time. In the foreground stands a forlorn, abandoned yacht club, seeming to remember the age of Gatsby, who would have partied on one of Long Island's Eggs not far across L.I. Sound.

Though the quiet local of City Island largely furnished the mood of this painting, the time of about 100 years since also did, inasmuch as that I used a color and value strategy inspired by one of my favorite illustrators, Maxfield Parrish. In keeping with what is appearing to be a theme of this blog, and upcoming exhibition, Parrish is an example of transitory fame. Like Al Jolson, (earlier blog) he was a star of his age. I read somewhere that a full TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of households in America displayed a reproduction of his on their walls in the 1920s. That made him perhaps even more popular than than Jesus Christ, even the famous 1940s wallet image given to G.I.s during WWII.

In this era of TV, film, and internet, the idea of such a supremely popular visual artist is beyond our wildest imagination. Equally boggling to the mind is that such a phenomenon would now be forgotten, relatively. Mainly he is remembered by artists.

He had a special talent for clear, atmospheric scenes with heightened colors, often in the keys of yellow and purple. Though he painted in oils, he more often used paper rather than canvas. His results had a lucidity of watercolor, but an intensity and sense for detail that oils foster. I think this was due to his understanding of transparency. In my painting of City Island, I tried to use transparent pigments, such as alizarine crimson, yellow and red iron oxide, and ultramarine blue, though I painted on canvas.

Forsider, Covers, is about magazine covers—print artifacts. Parish's age was the magazine and newspaper age. I grew up at the end of this age—and was influenced by it to the point that I think in terms of magazine covers. I dream magazine covers. Thanks to Mr. Computer, we don't care about covers anymore. But rather than gnash my teeth over a bygone age, I can try to do a project in the new digital medium that has killed off (or killing) the medium I pine for.

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