Sunday, May 04, 2008

cemetery art

I'm in a landscape workshop this weekend taking place at the Woodlawn Cemetery and it's fascinating to realize that there is an entire culture of cemetery art. The mausoleums are quite impressive, some of them even look like churches with beautiful domes. There is a gothic style mausoleum that is simply amazing. I love gothic architecture. Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, The Strauss family (old couple who gave up their "space" in the lifeboats at the sinking of The Titanic, Herman Melville to name a few, were buried there. The Piccirilli Brothers (The Maine Memorial, Central Park NYC) -- by the Columbus Circle entrance to the park -- were one of the many amazing sculptors (marble cutters and carvers) that contributed to the beautiful landscape and architecture of the cemetery. The landscape architecture is beautifully planned.

I'm definitely a fan of the Piccirilli Brothers. There's a beautiful figure (nude) sculpture called the Outcast, and it's this heart wrenching, painful pose where the male nude is so alienated that he digs into himself. How bleak. It pulled my attention from across the landscape and pulled me like a magnetic force. They are also responsible for the lions outside the main/central location of the New York Public Library, (for those who do not know what Lions I'm referring to but watched Sex and the City, The Movie, the library is where Carrie and Big were supposed to get married. She runs out of the library, horrified and there's a beautiful shot of her dress flying behind her as she runs down the steps like Cinderella. You see the majestic lions). I think that after this experience where I'm learning to draw outside the studio and come up with compositions that forces me to select and simplify from what's in front of me, I will head over to draw from their work.

As far as sketching from outdoors and daily street life -- something I've very interested in documenting" this landscape workshop has been very beneficial. Even though it's only been one day, it makes me think about how painting is really contrived and how selective you need to be. These are the artistic choices that make a painting unique. Even as a realist or naturalist, we edit and exaggerate. This is where creativity lives in realism. We need to edit. In art school, for training purposes, we copy and transcribe exactly what's in front of us to develop our skills and not give in to laziness or make excuses for not getting things right to the exact millimeter, but outside of the Academy (literally) I think practicing how to make these choices (while at the Academy) to is crucial my development as a draughtsman and artist. We are not cameras. Edward Hopper composed his New York street scenes, placed his diner in a dark street with no lights in the windows. This was an artistic choice. I live across a very tall building and never have I seen all the lights off in the building no matter what time of night. (I hardly see people too, but that's another thing). Even Antonio Lopez Garcia, I believe, despite his meticulous approach and way or working, edits something out be it the fence in the background of the quince tree in order to better focus on every leaf and fruit on that tree.

After meeting the wonderful tour guide who was very welcoming, I think I will spend a good part of this summer sketching in the park and coming up with a series of paintings. I'm interested in some of the mausoleum doors, the weeping angels, many things, though I have to work out the composition. For this weekend, however, I think I will force myself away from the figure and lean towards something more architectural, just for a change in subject matter. The figure pulls me too much and I want to try something new and different form what I've been doing at the Academy.