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Showing posts from September, 2019

The Undiscovered Country

Seen and Unseen , oil on layered glassine, 20" x 28" (detail)             "  the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn No traveller returns. " Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1 In the United States, a country obsessed with youth culture and the eternal postponement of old age, one of the greatest taboos is to talk openly about the aging process and death. In her exhibition at Hofheimer Gallery in Chicago, artist Mary Porterfield bravely depicts some of the adverse effects of aging with a clear-eyed gaze, a skillful hand, and a great degree of compassion. In these oil paintings on glassine, we see the faces, hands, and bodies of the aged with nothing hidden. Porterfield's brush carefully depicts all the wrinkles, the folds, the sagging of flesh on bones, the pallid skin and the red-rimmed eyes. In many of the paintings we see the same female face, apparently that of the artist's grandmother who experienced memory pr

New Work: Theme and Variations

Over the summer, I have been making oil paintings, etchings, and terracotta sculptures with a common theme: a pair of arms and hands reaching out to or holding a crow. The theme ultimately derives from the darker, industrial work I did a few years ago, based on memories of my coalminer-grandfather in England. That started with images of him as a boxer, or lying on the ground after being injured in an accident underground. Gradually, the image has become refined until I'm just using the arms. The crow just floated into the pictures, as it were. I've always loved crows, and I can picture them sitting in the trees in the village where I grew up, or on the top of the church, cawing up a storm. They are associated with sinister things, which still links to the idea of misfortune in my work. But I also just love their shape and colour. The etchings are slightly more detailed-looking than the paintings: And the clay sculptures are somewhere in between, technically: I