Sylvia White Gallery: installation and other information

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Statement: Arias and Nocturnes

At an operatic recital three and a half years ago, I had the great privilege of hearing mezzo-soprano Geeta Novotny performing. Her voice was riveting, and as she sang, fully eight months pregnant, she looked magnificent. After the recital, I asked her if she would let me photograph he as she sang; we’ve been working together ever since. I revisited the theme of singing with this group of fifteen paintings of Geeta singing the Habanera from the opera Carmen by George Bizet. The first of my series of paintings of singers was called Diva in Extremis, and the images were cobbled together without a real singer as a model. In the new group of paintings, I attempted to keep the expressive dynamic of the original images while being much truer to the real singer herself. Consequently, these are not portraits in a literal sense, but are a response to this particular singer and the music she creates with her voice.

I see music as a direct route to feeling, as is painting. The work for the series Operatic Duets, based very loosely on the story of Tristan and Isolde from the opera by Richard Wagner, engages the paths to feeling evoked by the couple singing. This is a complicated trajectory as there is no music in these paintings, only the idea and gestures of music. It leaves the viewer’s imagination to fill in the empty spaces, to fill them with sound.

Related to the musicians, though only tangentially, is the major piece in this show. It is the first section (called ‘Sleepers’) of a very large painting called Sleepwalking Through the Apocalypse. These canvases are the ‘Nocturnes’ of this exhibit’s title, two male figures, wrapped in sheets, sleeping on the ground in a night landscape. Disembodied heads are falling from the sky above them Are the falling heads dreams or the aftermath of a catastrophe? I have not been able to decide. This series has been in progress for a decade, with many finished studies, but this is the first time any part of the final piece has been shown.

Finally, I’ve included three portraits painted from sittings with the model. My first training and first love was portraiture, and it remains an active and critical part of my work. While I have become more and more involved with my camera as a tool for capturing the life around me, oaiinting from life is an exercise which ¬†remains difficult, at times tedious, but always immensely rewarding as it adds a living, breathing, and evolving connection between myself and my subject.

In conclusion, this exhibit of four loosely connected groups of paintings are strongly related by theme and sensibility, as well as the stylistic similarities in my handling of paint, composition, and palette,

Kathryn Jacobi  April 2012