As a contemporary artist, I love the freedom today of linking artistic movements, techniques and styles into one piece. Previous generations were bound to the styles of their time and place. Renaissance artists were funneled through apprenticeships, learning the ‘right way’ to paint and sculpt. In the Middle Ages artists were craft persons, designated to reproducing the ideology and interests of ruling classes, that being religion.
In my latest oil painting, I draw from multiple perspectives, while referencing an old concept: innocence. The figure’s face is rendered in a realistic manner, while the lower half of the body becomes more gestural; typical of impressionistic work. I incorporated ‘ribbon butterflies’ as an abstract representation of what a butterfly is; it’s diminishing form, signifies the loss of innocence. By blending styles of painting into one piece, the message of the changing concept of innocence is further realized.
as always click on the pic for more info!
I conceived of this project while in France but it took me 2 years to realize it on canvas. Here are preliminary sketches from then:
France gave me so much mental fodder. As many people experience when traveling, I was amazed by everything around me at the time. I felt the fresh eyed wonder of innocence. In the painting I depict a young woman on a stone beach. The scenery for the painting is borrowed from the coast of the tiny town of Perros Guiree:
The butterflies in the painting are borrowed from Renaissance symbology. At that time, the insects were often placed over the bodies of figures in paintings to signify purity, youth, and the absence of sin. The word innocence has a dualism, it is used to describe young girls, but also the wrongly accused. To understand why, one must look to it’s evolution, in 14th century France, when the word was used as a means to expound religious ideology. At the time, religion was essentially a branch of government. The ruling class, such as the Italian Medici family (which is well depicted in Renaissance art) had members in all powerful institutions, including papal positions. Side note: 13 Popes have held the name Innocent, including Innocent III who began the 4th Crusade and asserted control over European rulers (he was anything but his namesake). Back then you could execute people for heresy; meaning anything counter-culture or against the ruling class. Using the rebirth of Jesus to signify utmost purity and the removal of sin, the term ‘innocence’ could be applied to a young naive girl, or a person who is unjustly accused of a crime. The butterfly then fits into the picture, as it goes through its own ‘renaissance’ in transforming from caterpillar to adult.
By understanding the root to the word and its links to religion, the term becomes less pure and evidently was used as a way to categorize and control the populace.
A modern approach to innocence is taking pleasure in learning from new experiences, and approaching them with openness.
A juggernaut of contemporary art who made literal use of butterflies is Damien Hirsch. This guy is obsessed with death. He is pretty controversial, particularly in his use of animals in works. PETA hates him. My opinion is that he actually gets people talking about larger issues dealing with meat consumption and production, the environment, and mortality; if you can shock people these days, then you are moving them to actually think, so more power to him. What does one formaldehyde preserved calf mean juxtaposed against the millions of veal plates served in American Italian restaurants? Butterflies are his muse in several works, including ‘I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds’, referencing the atomic bomb:
This is a tiny part of the work
So, Hirsch and I have butterflies in common, boo-yea!