Family Portrait: self portraits with father.
I am a contemporary painter, but I am deeply influenced by the traditions of European and Russian art. For better or worse, classical painting techniques are rarely taught in American art schools. So I found a book that promised to reveal the secrets of the Masters in step by step instructions. The tutorial images look more like 80s soft core porn: unrealistically round perky breasts and half open puffy lips of the models are lovingly emphasized by dramatic chiaroscuro. But I would not be deterred and followed the prescribed steps and painted my soviet citizens instead.
There is a craft aspect of this method that is appealing and soothing. There is a relaxing quality in having set parameters and knowing what the next step is. The palette is extremely simple and I feel like I can really focus on the subtleties of light and shadow. This is something that was always challenging and overwhelming in my usual approach where I attack the canvas and attempt to solve for all the unknowns simultaneously. The traditional approach to oil painting does feel more like craft, more like following in the footsteps of the other master craftsmen that have perfected a method. And it's very different from my past painting experiences in which come up with the method as I go.
While "learning from the Masters" I decided to really focus on my subjects, to isolate them from their environment, to elevate the beer drinking factory worker and the bored toilet plunger sales girl using the classical portrait techniques. This way I can focus on finely rendering facial features and give special attention to the way the clothing drapes the body. I want to paint the worker's smock and the shop girl's bulky vest like the luxurious finery of the stately nobles of the past who were the predominant subjects of such portraiture. I want to do this because I know so intimately how that drab blue-gray worker's smock drapes and folds, how hateful those standard issue uniforms were. I had one too.
Until I was twenty-three I lived mostly in a few square miles in Manhattan. In 1972 I set out with a friend for Amarillo, Texas. I didn't drive, so my first view of America was framed by the passenger's window.
It was a shock. I would be in a flat nowhere place of the earth, and every now and then I would walk outside or be driving down a road and the light would hit something and for a few minutes the place would be transformed.
Color film is wonderful because it shows not only the intensity but the color of light. There is so much variation in light between noon one day and the next, between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A picture happens when something inside connects, an experience that changes as the photographer does. When the picture is there, I set out the 8x10 camera, walk around it, get behind it, put the hood over my head, perhaps move it over a foot, walk in front, fiddle with the lens, the aperture, the shutter speed. I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy:
The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I've cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I've found through experience that whenever--or so it seems--my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes--I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still. Fishing, like photography, is an art that calls forth intelligence, concentration, and delicacy.
Stephen Shore, 1982
I paint because I am a woman.
(It’s a logical necessity).
If painting is female and insanity is a female malady, then all women painters are mad and all male painters are women.
I paint because I am an artificial blonde woman.
(Brunettes have no excuse).
If all good painting is about color then bad painting is about having the wrong color. But bad things can be good excuses. As Sharon Stone said, ‘Being blonde is a great excuse. When you’re having a bad day you can say, I can’t help it, I’m just feeling very blonde today.’
I paint because I am a country girl.
(Clever, talented big-city girls don’t paint).
I grew up on a wine farm in Southern Africa. When I was a child I drew bikini girls for male guests on the back of their cigarette packs. Now I am a mother and I live in another place that reminds me a lot of a farm – Amsterdam (It’s a good place for painters). Come to think about it, I’m still busy with those types of images and imagination.
I paint because I am a religious woman.
(I believe in eternity). Painting doesn’t freeze time.
It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn’t travel with the speed of light. That’s why dead painters shine so bright.
It’s okay to be the second sex.
It’s okay to be second best.
Painting is not a progressive activity.
I paint because I am an old-fashioned woman.
(I believe in witchcraft).
I don’t have Freudian hang-ups. A brush does not remind me of a phallic symbol. If anything, the domestic aspect of a painter’s studio (being ‘locked up’ in a room) reminds me a bit of the housewife with her broom. If you’re a witch you will still know how to use it. Otherwise it is obvious that you’ll prefer the vacuum cleaner.
I paint because I am a dirty woman.
(Painting is a messy business).
It cannot ever be a pure conceptual medium. The more ‘conceptual’ or cleaner the art, the more the head can be separated from the body, and the more the labour can be done by others. Painting is the only manual labour I do.
I paint because I like to be bought and sold.
Painting is about the trace of the human touch. It is about the skin of a surface. A painting is not a postcard. The content of a painting cannot be separated from the feel of its surface. Therefore, in spite of everything, Cézanne is more than vegetation and Picasso is more than an anus and Matisse is not a pimp.
Women and painting. Originally published in Parkett. Cherchez la Femme Peintre! A Parkett Inquiry, vol. 37 (1993), p.140; and included in Marlene Dumas, Sweet Nothings. Notes and Texts, first edition Galerie Paul Andriesse and De Balie Publishers Amsterdam, 1998; and second edition (revised and expanded) Koenig Books London, 2014.
WHO: Tatyana Ostapenko
WHAT: “Open Air,” paintings
WHERE: MULTNOMAH ARTS CENTER GALLERY
Multnomah Arts Center
7688 SW Capitol Hwy
Portland, OR 97219
WHEN: Exhibit: January 6 – 31, 2017
Opening Reception: Friday, January 6, 7-9pm
HOURS: Mon-Fri: 9am-9:30pm
Sat & Sun: 9am-5pm
“Open Air,” an exhibit of paintings by Tatyana Ostapenko, will be on view at the Multnomah Arts Center gallery beginning January 6. The oils on canvas and wood draw upon the subjects of her post-soviet homeland of Ukraine. They pay homage to the native traditions of realist and social realist painting. An opening reception will be held in the gallery Friday, January 6, 7-9pm. The show may be seen through January 31.
Other People’s Borscht
On view at September 8th - November 10th
Reception Thursday, October 13th, 5-7 pm
We hope you can join us for snacks, libations and conversations.
We hope you can join us for October's Capitol Hill Art Walk!
You are invited to the inaugural Old Town Biennial/New Portland Painting.
Brooke Budy and I co-curated this show of emerging local painters because we wanted to see more good painting on Portland gallery walls.
The artists we have chosen are united by a passion for their medium and a dedication to the process and craft of painting.
What to expect: New work from seven emerging Portland painters
What's being served: White and rosé from local favorite Rose & Fern Wines (and some hip cheap beer, too)
Where to show up: Erickson Gallery, at 9 NW 2nd Ave, in Portland.
When it's happening: First Thursday, August 4, from 6:00 - 9:00pm. (Stay tuned for advance notice of further Biennial-related events at the gallery throughout the month of August.)
oil on wood
Tickets are now on sale at www.CAPArtAuction.org for Portland’s premier art event benefiting Cascade AIDS Project. This year’s theme is Pop Art, so pick out an outfit that’d make Andy Warhol proud!
CAP’s Annual Art Auction is one of the agency’s major annual fundraisers, raising over $600,000 to support and empower people living with or affected by HIV and to prevent new infections. The After Party ($50/person) includes a salon-style silent auction of over 150 pieces of art along with sweets and savories provided by some of Portland’s best food purveyors. The Patron Dinner ($300/person) includes attendance at the After Party, plus a gourmet meal and a live auction featuring a number of the most outstanding pieces donated by prominent area artists and collectors.