‘The Soul Selects Her Own Society’
Portraits of Women Poets, 10th – 20th C by Jay Wittenberg
September 10 – October 28, 2012
Artist Reception: Saturday, September 15, 6 – 8 p.m.
Artist Lecture: Tuesday, October 23, Lecture Hall – Visual Arts Building, 6 – 7 p.m.
All Events are Free and Open to the Public
For all of my career it has been the face and the portrait that I have most turned to for my artistic expression. In 2003 I began doing drawings initially based on photographs or paintings of my potential subjects. I followed these studies with woodcuts of the poets, where multiples were printed and I could experiment with various textures, contrast, broken and unbroken line, facial expressions, and mood. Ultimately, those subjects that I believe successful I choose to interpret in paint. And thus the portrait evolves, and is nurtured, culminating in six to twelve months of applying layers in oil, whereby I can let the portrait fully develop, and let my exposure to the poet's work also take its natural course.
As I am working on a portrait, besides revisiting the subject's literature, I sometimes have had the privilege of hearing recordings of the poet's actual voice as she recites her work.
In the past twelve months I've selected some of my subjects from even further in the past, where no recorded image of any kind exists. To create a starting point for my interpretations I utilized written descriptions of the poets, where and if I could find them. I also relied heavily on my intuition of how I thought they appeared, based upon how their work made me feel. It was both more freeing and more challenging in many ways.
Painting holds the power to regain and restore that which was lost. When I think of painting I think of being and non-being. And when I paint a subject that I believe is beyond mortality, I paint them as iconic. I think that wrestling with a sense of the immortal in my painting is likely an impossible endeavor, but it feels like a worthy endeavor just the same.