Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rose Frantzen at the Palette and Chisel

I posted these pictures of Rose Frantzen's show over to our Palette blog a few weeks ago -- but as I've been thinking about the paintings that she just put up last weekend-- I just have to offer commentary too -- because -- well -- she is so remarkable.


For what seems like the first time ever at a P&C show --- I walked into the gallery room and got knocked flat -- with a blast of energy from the heartland (Maquoqueta, Iowa, to be exact) -- and as I reflected on what she was doing -- I realized that she's just telling us about her life -- as in a well-made first-person novel or docu-drama.

She titled the show "A look at life" -- and yes -- that's quite accurate.

No attempt at meeting any expectations of formal portraiture here -- just the presentation of somebody local -- but so powerfully present -- as to recall those 15th C. portaits of Italian warlords.

And when she makes a landscape (this is someplace on Staten Island, as I recall) -- there's this sense of impending action -- like it's not just a pretty scene -- but it's a setting where things have happened and will happen


If you've seen a Richard Schmid floral -- you'll know where these florals come from -- but there's no harm -- in my oriental aesthetics -- in reliving the past -- because beauty is not dulled by repetition -- and the spirit in each painting is a unique event.

But, for me, the most charming part of the exhibition were the paintings of her parents -- as she really became something of a documentary film maker -- which is, I think, quite a technical achievement for a painter.

(Parents reading news from Iraq )

(Parents reading news from Iraq )

These two paintings show her parents reacting to newpaper reports of events in the Middle East, where one of her brothers was then stationed.

But now we come to the part of the show that flew way over my head -- this almost religious icon to woman-as-mother....

...and I feel like I've walked into some strange church to which I don't belong

Maybe it's just that, being a childless drone, I just can't relate to the thrills of procreation (which -- when opportunity ever arose -- I carefully tried to avoid)


But even in these incomprehensible paintings--- the details were so true and so enjoyable -- I remain captivated by them.

Yes -- it was just like going to a good movie -- some scenes I liked -- some I couldn't figure out -- and walking out of the theatre onto the street -- I just have to start talking about what I've seen.


Anonymous marly said...

I had just enough time for a quick trip to the Palette & Chisel... I especially like the paintings of Frantzen's parents.

When I looked at the first of what you call "icons" of woman, what flew into my head was Ford Madox Brown's "Take Your Son, Sir." I suppose it's the frontal pose with uplifted chin and the two important circles, similarly placed, that made the link--and I bet that a feminist art historian could have a very great deal to say about each.

The central baby-and-flower-embracing swimmer in the last picture also has something of that strange mixture of external (baby held out) and internal (ravel of cloth like a womb around the baby) that's in the FMB picture. The babies here are roughly womb-level and also surrounded, here by flowers.

That one feels rather pre-Raphaelite in other ways, too, all that infinite fluidity of mingled water and drapery--only a good p-R would metamorphose them into water nymphs trying to drown Hylas, I suppose.

That's both of my two cents in the Chris hat. Back to work! But I enjoyed my jaunt.

November 24, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Turning to Wikipedia for the four early declarations of the Pre Rapahelite Brotherhood:

1. To have genuine ideas to express;
2. To study Nature attentively, so as to know how to express them;
3. To sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parading and learned by rote;
4. And, most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues.

Yes--- I think that Rose could put the PRB initials into the corner of her "icon" paintings -- and while these all appear to be good principles -- actually -- I think they're a prescription for bad painting:
#1 turns painting into illustration, #2 makes it slave to Nature, #3 attacks convention - which enables mastery, #4 "thoroughly good" is boring

Well -- I suppose those brief responses of mine are hardly self-evident -- but I feel a need to keep them short -- and needless to say, I've never seen a PRB painting that I've liked.

And, thankyou again, Marly, for your perceptive responses. As others have noted, every blog has its ideal reader , I think you're pretty close to being mine.

November 25, 2006  
Anonymous marly said...

Aw, Chris! Nothing like a compliment to shut me up . . . if only one could shut up a writer.

I think it is interesting and a little funny that you don’t like the Brotherhood. I’d certainly run away if I saw one of the men coming after me—they were so good at scattering misery among their womenfolk. And poor William Morris: he should have known the perfect pre-Raphaelite model would make a lousy sort of wife.

Long, long ago I felt a sort of fascination with them, and read the poems of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Christina Rossetti and William Morris. But I feel a lot of sympathy for your rejection of their ideas. It’s the same with words; start with an idea and plan to embed it or embody it, and you’ve deadened what you try to make. The idea about studying nature also has a parallel: the danger, particularly in poetry, of locking yourself into mere lovely decoration. I’d take almost the same lesson from numbers 3 and 4, and I’d add that 3—in a painting or in words—leads straight to the humorless, and leaves out the great comedy of life.

Of course, I’ve never tacked up a manifesto. If I did, I’d start to disagree with it immediately.

November 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

too bad that you don't understand some of the paintings-the 3 babies and 3 mothers was in tribute to the artists two brothers babies and her best friend-all within 24 hours. Its a painting of a mother nuturing, a mother dreaming about what her child will be someday and a mother letting go-these are 3 aspects of being a mother-

March 12, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thanks for filling in the backstory.

There are so many sacred mothers in the world, I just assumed that this was another shrine.

(and even if it's not -- it could be!)

March 13, 2007  

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