For those unacquainted with the painting of Jennifer Bartlett, you are in for a lush surprise. Ms. Bartlett makes some of the most beautiful, ostensibly “modern” pictures that you’ve “never heard of.” Actually for a period in the late seventies, she was the queen of painting and has done quite well commercially since her august beginning with a landmark work called Rhapsody. Meanwhile, each of the squares in the painting above, modeled after Rhapsody, called Swimmers is one foot square and made of thin steel. The grid of white is the wall showing through the individual panels. And what is visible here is just a detail of an enormous image.
I know what writers suffering from the famous “writer’s block” feel as I try to describe this picture. I find myself at a loss for words. I am not tongue-tied by admiration exactly, either. Other painters have produced paintings that I prize over this one — Monet in his Nympheas, for instance. What causes me to stumble for words is the sheer enormity of trying to explain what Ms. Bartlett is doing, as well as my awareness that I am not certain myself what she’s doing or why I find it so compelling.
Suffice it for now to observe that she has, in this picture at least, portrayed water in a most unwatery way. As a consequence of being mesmerized by her ocean, I now have an invisible grid overhanging my koi pond of thought.