Art History, One

     Painters tend to start out under the influence of some prominent artist or movement.  For me, it was James Rosenquist and Pop Art.  My first paintings independent of the Brooklyn Museum Art School were large monochromatic canvases, showing single dolls or cross sections of photographs.  I eventually grew discontented with the flatness of photography and turned to painting figures from life.  My initial goal was to show personality expressed in an integrated way throughout the face and naked body.  I then became interested in the disparity between people and the clothing they wore.  People use clothing to erect a persona, which may or may not be a good fit with their underlying character.  In my paintings from the 70’s, I used partial and misfitting dress to generate a feeling of unease and disconnection between the models and the garments I asked them to pose in.

     I had to cut back on hiring models but continued to paint family members and self portraits, which again featured a problematic connection between sitters and costumes.  In recent years, I executed a set of self portraits in period hats that sit a bit uneasily on my contemporary head.  

     In the late 80’s I turned to painting still lifes.  I imagined my table as a stage for private dramas and used crimson curtains to enhance the sense of theater.  My still lifes explore the precariousness of life.  I use unstable balances and concealed, multiple levels of support.  The objects may be beautiful, but there is often an element of threat, a hidden snake, or a predatory owl.  The paintings play with the concept of realism.  How “realistic” is the menace of a taxidermy bird to a plastic mouse?  I think of Marianne Moore’s “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”  That is realism in art.  When I moved to Cold Spring, New York, in the mid 90’s, my still lifes opened up to the outdoors, with the Hudson River occupying a prominent place beyond the curtains.  That is my current problem: to knit together the interior and exterior scene.

     In some sense, that is always the problem of the painter.  The art that evolved from Modernism attempts to establish meaning through new materials and new ideas about space.  It focuses largely on process.  As a realist painter, I try to exploit the relative transparency of my method to draw upon meaning culturally implicit in the  subjects themselves, be they apples or angels.  But I also want to interweave our shared recognitions with the more personal associations that are generated by our private histories.  The dance between artist and viewer, called to our own tunes, deepens the emotional resonance of the paintings.


                                                                                                             Fran Hodes