Monday, November 15, 2010

An Interview With Shelley Adler

Honey #1
oil on gessoboard 8 x 10"
Shelley Adler

As if by clues sent through time, Shelley Adler's oils from old snapshots reveal unexpected stories.

Whom do you make art for?

Primarily for myself. I have to find subject matter that is intriguing to me. When I have a commission I try to have the client give me several images so that I can hopefully find one that is really appealing in some way, that grabs my attention so that I will want to work on it.

When I am painting to show the work or even if I intend to keep it, I always feel compelled to be very emotionally involved in the process and project. Otherwise the whole task is boring.

Do you have a favorite painting?

I love almost all of Vermeer's paintings.

What are your favorite things to look at?

People's faces, and also the way they hold or carry themselves, the way they dress. The sky with cloud formations, especially with colorful sunsets. Things that have wonderful color juxtapositions or combinations that may be either in nature or manufactured.

Are you able to learn more about your subjects, or even yourself, while going through the painting process?

Having imaginary conversations with the subjects of my paintings is exactly the process that I go through as I am painting their images. I do feel that I am intuiting truth about them as I paint them...and I do try to communicate my understanding of them as I work to complete a painting. I think I do this by carefully seeing the facial expressions and body language in the photos that I use as a basis for my work.

oil on gessoboard 16 x 18"

Shelley Adler

Are you driven to make your paintings more beautiful than the subect? Do you think such is necessary?

No. In fact I guard against making the subject more beautiful. What I try to make beautiful is the painting itself, by the selection of color and texture, atmosphere etc. The individuals or subjects in the painting need to look as "real" or "ugly" or "specific" as they appear in the original snapshot....because it is the flavor of the original image that I am attempting to expand on with the additional use of color and atmosphere. It is entirely possible to make an incredibly beautiful painting from a very ugly subject...such as a decaying structure or piles of garbage or a decrepit person. I think it is the artists' job to conjure up that transformation from what we glance at in passing and do not really what we actually notice. Naturally, if you start with a beautiful subject...either a person or scene you want to get all the beauty you can across also. Sometimes an artist can heighten the effect of a subject by contrasting the sadness or decay or fear of a subject by deliberately painting it beautifully. Something similar to the song sung by Billy Holiday called "Strange Fruit". The melody is haunting and lovely and then suddenly you realize the words refer to bodies hanging on trees. Paintings can do that also...John the Babtist's head on a platter was painted beautifully by numerous well known painters...the subject is grizzly, but the paintings are beautiful.

Shelley Adler

Shelley Adler's exhibition opens November 30th.

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