Some artists make you want to paint. They are “painters’ painters.” These artists understand painting from the inside, from the seeing side. Their works are about the world and about meaning, but their images are simultaneously about seeing, about thinking visually and about the act of painting. Often they turn out to be great painters. Certainly every great painter is counted among them. (That’s a Venn diagram that I’ve just written, but I’ll leave it to the mathematicians to draw it. Actually I think I’ve managed to put the idea into words just fine without the Venn. Actually now that I mention it, Venn and mathematics has a lot to do with my subject, but it will have to wait. And I’ve got to get out of these parentheses now.)
Jennifer Bartlett has a luscious painterly side (that may make her great someday, who knows?) and a hipster conceptualist/arithmetical side (that I’m sure is quite charming, too). I used to hate her work. (But that’s a long story.)
For now, I would have the reader concentrate on pure lusciousness. It’s summer — a great time to be luscious — like a North Carolina peach. The image above is very large and it’s made with pastel. So it’s a big drawing. You know about Elaine’s big salad, this is BIG drawing. And, well, for the artist, it’s like being able to walk right into the picture.
Bartlett’s imagery has meanings that might surprise some readers. (They sure surprised me when I first learned about them.) But while the casual reader is unlikely perhaps to pry into the matter as much as I did, I invite you to offer your ideas about what this picture (which is really two pictures in one) means to you. I think the meanings that the reader imagines might prove more complex than even the author’s own motivations which are quite serious and deep.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll go draw. This picture makes me want to pick up my tools!
[Top of the post: Old House Lane # 16, 1986, pastel on paper, 44 x 60 inches by Jennifer Bartlett]