Monday, August 31, 2009

Artist Statement, Black Butterfly: The Muse

Solo Exhibition opens September 18th through October 10th 2009 at 33 Collective Gallery at Zhou B Art Center, Chicago.


It’s all about inspiration.

In my series of symbolist figurative works “Black Butterfly: The Muse,” the ethereal butterfly represents the artist's muse and subjects are always those who are involved in the creative arts. Butterflies may seem a trite symbol, but in the summer of 2008, I had an unusual amount of butterfly sightings, especially black varieties. These occurred just as I was going through a burst of artistic creativity. I wrote my first poem in decades about the encounters as metaphoric of the artist's muse and began to include butterflies in a new series of charcoal drawings executed on heavy weight frosted Mylar drafting film.

I'm most influenced by the visionary artists, magic realists such as the Pre-Raphaelites, William Blake, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Andrew Wyeth. I admire the deep emotion they convey through use of the figure and props and their subtle manipulation of reality.

Classical themes from literature or gods and goddesses find a place in “Black Butterfly.” The artist’s muse and gifts can have destructive effects on the ego, and the butterfly metaphor of death and transformation in the afterlife is a strong element in my works depicting celebrities who died through drug abuse or murder. Celebrity portraits have an element of a “cover tune” and are not my usual fare; however, I have used a few of them here to illustrate the idea of giftedness and the celebrity that can be the result of strong personal charisma. These icons of popular culture are our heroes, gods and goddesses of our era. Wherever possible, I have obtained the permission of the original photographer to use their references.

While I most often use my own references, I also embrace the contemporary idea of internet community, sometimes presenting drawings from online artist friend’s self-portrait photography. Combining historical classical painting themes with these personas and symbols, my intent is to relate a deeper truth about the subject and the meanings of life and art in general.

From a technical aspect, I enjoy playing with the translucent quality of the Mylar film in the drawn and erased surface, which is so beautiful for rendering the reflective quality of human complexions. I am also experimenting with the color and texture of the backing paper, sometimes layering a drawing or digital image on the backing paper which shows through the Mylar surface. One drawing of John Lennon is framed in a lighted shrine box, with an electric candle shining through the Mylar. Cast off vintage frames are part of my process; I enjoy taking something that may be regarded as trash and reusing it in an unexpected and creative manner. These lend a sculptural quality in the work, and reflect on my classic style and subject matter.

These drawings are meant to be noble representations of individual subjects, and also illustrative of the best aspects of our time: bringing together a wealth of influences, a recognition of art history, and a contemporary attitude, to create images that are of the moment, but that hopefully will also remain relevant in the future.

~ Alice McMahon White, Chicago, September 2009


Candace X. Moore said...

Really like the self-determined, individual path you've taken, Alice. Your statement indicates clarity of purpose. Focus is so critical. You must be very excited about the upcoming show. So important to connect with the viewer.

I must say the third image down is especially stunning (model against rounded chair back). Very strong design.

Alice McMahon White said...

Thanks Candace - writing comes third or forth nature for me - but it is a necessary skill for the artist. I'm glad you notice focus in the writing. So many thoughts to condense into a single page!

Honestly will be relieved when it's all over! But I'm using this series as a presentation for prospective commercial gallery representation. Tough times to approach them, but my prices are competitive as an emerging artist so it's worth a shot!

Thanks again!

Susie McMahon said...

Aaah! Fabulous! I am surprised by how 'loose' your technique is, as exemplified by the last picture (closeup of the butterfly) A cohesive and strong body of work - would love to see it for real.

Alice McMahon White said...

Thanks again Susie. I enjoy leaving a bit of the artist's hand in the completed work - not always evident except by close inspection as in these detail photos.

The Dali piece just completed was done with more finish than my usual work, homage to the master!

One sad thing about the www - too many events in far off places I'd love to attend. I'll be posting a photo blog of the night! :)

Jenna Alexander said...

I found your blog by hitting the "Next Blog" button on the top of mine. This is so much fun! You never know where it will take you.

Beautiful - Beautiful work!