I wanted to approach Alice Neel’s painting “Symbols”, my prompt-choice for The Kick-About #5, in a different way than I had done previously. The inspiration for this 3-D collage came when I was cleaning out some papers and came upon the paper insert for the Evanescence cd “Fallen”. The cover photo of Amy Lee seemed to echo the face of the doll Neel had painted.
upon my end I shall begin–
I’m going under
I’ve been sleeping a thousand years it seems
without a thought without a voice without a soul
the truth drives me into madness,
my spirit sleeping somewhere cold
no one’s there–
never was and never will be
save me from the nothing I’ve become,
return to me salvation
maybe I’ll wake up for once,
fallen angels at my feet
let me stay,
bow down and stare in wonder
I know who you are–
the goddess of imaginary light
This was music my younger daughter played over and over in her adolescence, and it was fun to go to YouTube and pull up the songs. I still like them. Maybe I even like them more now. Amy’s voice is a force, and she can be way over the top. But the gothic flavor of the music seemed also apt to the painting.
As I did recently, I did the main collage on a fold out card so it could stand up. I then created a field of paper flowers and a purple sky inspired by the lyrics of the song on the Fallen album called “Imaginary”. Then I photographed it from a few angles. Above and below are all the individual elements.
The poem is a cento, composed from lines in the songs on the album.
How does all this relate to Alice Neel’s painting? As reflected in my previous collages, I think Neel is addressing her struggle as a woman, a mother, an artist, a person constrained by family and cultural circumstances. She lost her oldest child to her husband’s family who considered her an unsuitable mother. The life she chose was not easy, but she never gave up her need and her right to make her art. Must a woman be only a virgin mother or a childless whore? And why should gender determine who we are or what we can be at all?
You can see the other collages I did based on this painting here.
I would be remiss if I did not include a few Evanescence videos. If it’s not your style of music, you can turn the sound down and just enjoy the visual barrage.
And here’s a live version of “My Immortal”, the hit from “Fallen”. That’s the song I remember coming out of my daughter’s room.
The human body is composed of 206 bones. But sometimes bones fuse, and the body contains less.
One in 200 humans has 13 ribs, but not all of these humans are identical in gender to Eve.
Bones are light.
Flesh lies heavy, uneasy, impermanent. Flesh apologizes for itself, asks to be concealed.
To be light.
immense—like Pandora’s box,
inside singing out
The Poetics theme proposed by Anmol at dVerse is Myths and Legends. My collage is based on an Alice Neel painting called Symbols, which I have always found intriguing and was lucky enough to see in an exhibit in March. That’s my photo of it above.
I’ve done a collage based on the painting before–the one, above, done in 2010, was a much more literal interpretation.
When I went to see the Nevelson show a few weeks ago, I also went to an exhibit of Alice Neel drawings in a gallery nearby. I had been working on drawing family groups, and I knew she often used her own family as subjects.
I was surprised to see that she sometimes used markers for her drawings. The couple above is quite large, probably 18 x 24 inches.
I liked this early figure study, showing the subject in a few different outfits, at different angles.
Another early drawing looks like it may have been done on a paper bag.
This sweet early watercolor portrays her mother with her daughter.
And here’s a simple watercolor landscape, also done when she was young.
Later watercolors are also worked in different ways. The woman appears to be first drawn in pencil and colored in with paint; the sisters were done as part of an integrated, painted scene.
Neel also occasionally worked in pastel.
Her imagined figural scenes contain lots of emotional impact.
The variety and depth of Alice Neel’s drawings are an inspiration and a reminder to stay open and flexible. And to always keep exploring.
One of the artists in my Sketchbook Project “Art I Like” is Alice Neel. Most of the works I chose to represent through lines and grids were either landscape or abstract, but Neel was primarily a portraitist, so I used a painting of her son Richard. Amazingly, the boy emerges from the abstraction.
No one who draws or paints people can escape the influence of Alice Neel. She persevered with her subject matter when representative art was considered “over” in the mid 20th century, only to find the world catching up with her again in the 1960’s. Above is a painting Nina did of me in the 1970’s next of one of Neel’s portraits of her granddaughter done at about the same time. They were definitely on the same wavelength.
I did this watercolor last month, and in looking through a book of Alice Neel paintings, came across one that also feels like it came from the same source, although it was painted in 1959.
Neel painted her children and grandchildren with their pets, just as I painted Nina with her cat Ace.
And Nina’s “Woman in a Hat”, done recently, echoes eerily Neel’s “Young Woman” painted in 1946.
Alice Neel painted hundreds of portraits, from the people living on her street, to her family and friends, to the rich, famous, and well-connected. We all who also try to portray the humans around us are indebted to her wide-ranging and penetrating vision.
I based this sketch on a photo of a band I cut out of the newspaper (maybe from amNewYork?). But the real inspiration came from looking at a show of Basquiat drawings at the Acquavella galleries.
I love Basquiat’s energy and the way he manages to combine so many different things to make a cohesive whole. He is the master of text. Once again, seeing the actual works I knew only from postcard reproductions was illuminating and motivating.
Basquiat worked a lot with oil paintsticks, sometimes combining them with pencil drawing, or acrylic paint, or ink, or collage. I don’t have oil paintsticks, but I found a set of “watercolor crayons” (priced at $2–that’s how old they are) in my closet. The color selection was limited, but they worked to capture some of what I was looking for. I painted an outline with brown dye and crayoned on top.
One Basquiat portrait (of Herbert and Lenore Schorr) really caught my eye and reminded me a lot of Alice Neel. Nina and I went to a show of her paintings awhile back in Chelsea. She also often used outlining with a contrast of vivid colors, but mostly it was the almost naked directness that made me link the two.
I have also used Basquiat as a reference for collage.
He is full of endless sparks and stimulation.