Art History Re-Interpretations

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about this series.

Art History Re-Interpretations

For many years I have been doing a side series of works:

re-interpretations of art historical pieces.  Many of these are based on Old Master portraits, where I replace the original human subjects with birds specifically selected for conceptual reasons. I closely replicate the backgrounds while painting the birds in such a way to match the style. I also maintain the same relationship between positive image and negative space. I pay homage to the original artists by including their names in parentheses in the titles. In so doing, I hope that my viewers are familiar with the original piece, because that will enhance their understanding of the conceptual layers and commentary I am pursuing.

In "Portrait of a Lady (after Jan Victors)," a dodo has replaced the woman, who, in 1640 when her portrait was painted, likely knew of the dodo bird.  It was her Dutch countrymen who caused the extinction of the dodo later that century.  I stylized the dodo's feathers to suggest the lace common to the traditional Dutch fashion.  I also paralleled the three areas of highlights we see in the original:  face and collar, apron, sleeve cuff.

"Portrait of Francois I on Horseback (after Francois Clouet)" depicts the beloved king, namesake of France, who was credited with ushering in the French cultural renaissance, and viewed as a critical and influential patron of arts and letters. Here I have chosen an owl, used throughout literature, legends, and folklore as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom.  I have stylized the owl's plumage to mimic the decorative, ornate filigree on the king's armor.  The owl's gaze and countenance reflect the facial expression of the king.  I initially painted the owl the same size as the king, in keeping with my plan to stay true to my positive image-negative space criterion for this series, but the result was absurd and I painted the owl out and instead perched him atop the saddle's pommel and horn.

"Simonetta Vespucci (after Piero di Cosimo)" is in the permanent collection of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, OR (Bill Rhoades Northwest Art Archive Collection). Simonetta was considered one of the greatest beauties of her time, and was a preferred model for several prominent painters, including di Cosimo and Botticelli. At the bottom of one of Botticelli's paintings of Simonetta is the inscription "La Sans Pareille" (The Unparalleled One"). I made a leap and referenced the other historical unparalleled ideal: the Virgin Mary, which led to my choice of the pelican. The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her young in time of famine is rooted in an ancient legend which predated Christianity: the mother wounded herself, striking her breast with her beak, drawing blood to nourish her young to prevent starvation, but in so doing lost her own life. The incredible snake necklace and draped cloak posed fun challenges, to see how they might fall upon the figure of the pelican.