Where It’s At ... The human form
Artists have been painting, drawing and sculpting the human form for centuries. Why?
Michelangelo said, “He who does not master the nude cannot understand the principles of architecture.”
Auguste Rodin: “The body always expresses the spirit whose envelope it is. And for him who can see, the nude offers the richest meaning.”
Leonardo da Vinci: “O painter skilled in anatomy, beware lest the undue prominence of the bones, sinews and muscles cause you to become a wooden painter from the desire to make your nude figures reveal all.”
The late Ruth Rhoads Lepper Gardner (to Tony Heyl): “The human body can be a magnificent thing ... but if it’s not, for God’s sake - drape it!”
The third annual “What’s Nude in Boothbay Harbor” exhibition returned this year in a new location – the Boothbay Region Art Foundation. And, given the fact BRAF has been offering life drawing classes for over 40 years, the early days in Wiscasset, it seems a perfect choice. Artists back then included James Wilmot, Lois Goldstone, Jean Swan Gordon and John Dunning. It started out in a back room at the Maine Art Gallery in Wiscasset and moved to Dunning’s East Boothbay studio. Then in 1965-66, classes continued in the Foundation’s first location in the Brick House on Oak Street, then 7 Townsend Ave., and finally its home at 1 Townsend Ave.
Artist, sculptor and jewlery designer-creator Heyl is but one of the artists in the “What’s Nude” show who attended the BRAF’s life drawing classes, albeit years ago. One of Heyl’s brass sculptures (he has two in the show) is from his executive toy line. “On A Roll" depicts a nude couple positioned on opposite ends of a horizontal cylinder. The toy comes with a stand. As it rolls with a pendulum motion, the couple appear to be having a great time. It's all in the expressions on their faces and body language ...
“I made a mold for each of the three pieces that I put together to make the sculpture,” Heyl said. “I’ve been making the toys for decades and this one I made a number of years ago. I still try to make one or two a year. I’m excited to be part of the show this year.”
East Boothbay watercolorist Tony van Hasselt has two figure drawings, one in pencil of a woman and the other of a man in pencil and watercolor. Both figures were done while attending life drawing classes at BRAF. Tony says learning to draw nudes is “absolutely important. Even if you are a person painting or drawing landscapes, you are going to run into figures. It’s good to see how they are constructed.”
Sandra Griffin’s two pencil-charcoal drawings, “Madonna I” and “Madonna II,” - both of which are sold, BTW - were done during the Sunday life studies classes she’s been going to at her friend Barbara Vanderbilt’s studio. “We (artists) all have a plethora of sketches done, but nowhere to exhibit them. The work is just beautiful ... if you can’t draw the human body, you can’t draw anything. It is so complex.”
Sandra says this year’s show is awe-inspiring. Maybe the best show to date.
One of my favorites is by Fran Scannell over Southport way. Fran and I go way back. In the late-ish 90s and early 2000s, we were wedding reception bartenders together at Spruce Point. Quite an experience I can tell you! Anyway, since she retired from Bigelow in 2013, Fran’s been able to pursue her lifelong passion for painting. Her painting in this year’s “What’s Nude,” “Every Day I Have the Blues," yes, after the B.B. King song, is an oil done on two 11” x 14” canvases joined together.
“I haven’t done a lot of this work, I’ve taken some classes but no life drawing yet. I’m really kind of old-fashioned that way,” Fran said. “I painted this piece for the show and started on it, oh, last month for a couple of weeks. At first I just did the top panel of the woman’s head to her navel ... and then I thought I should do her bottom half - but in water.”
This piece is more than meets the eye: There are different shapes - from cubes to birds as the “sky” and body of the subject - there’s even a triskele (as a Celtic symbol the three spirals symbolize the sun, afterlife and reincarnation)! A cool way to illustrate the connection between humans, nature and the mystery of life beyond our human form. Water and seaweed on the second panel add depth and mystery ... Better get there before Saturday - or by early on Saturday - because this piece is sold, too
This is a show that even the artists are “oohing and ahhing” about and using words like “exquisite” and “outstanding” to describe. See why for yourself! See it twice.
The exhibition concludes this weekend, Thursday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 23. And on Saturday, there’s an artist’s potluck from 5-7. They will also be picking up their unsold art. And it’s open to everyone!