Saturday, October 17, 2009

Icon: Elizabeth Peyton

i remember first seeing this portrait of Jarvis Cocker by Elizabeth Peyton
in 2001, i was taking summer classes during my second year at University of Toronto.  i had this art class and one of the projects was to research an artist that appealed to you.  i think i was going to do something on maybe Egon Schiele or Picasso (not really knowing who i wanted to focus on) when i came across this portrait of Mr. Cocker.  i remember being struck by its extremely close composition and Mr. Cocker's eyes.  there was a real intimacy to this portrait - it reminded me of a close up polaroid.  Mr. Cocker's gaze was both strong and soft, which added to that intimate feel of the painting.  
i immediately fell in love with Ms. Peyton's work.  a lot of art i'd seen until then all seemed so historical or heavy with meaning but hers was just about this adoration of the subject.  i loved the fact that she unashamedly drew from magazines or clippings (something that, as a kid who grew up drawing from fashion magazines, i could really relate to).  she made her subjects look beautiful and ethereal - there was this slight androgyny to them that was even more captivating.  slightly effeminate boys with pale skin and red, lipsticked lips: just amazing.
from then on, she became the artist for me.  i tried reading as much as i could about her and i just searched for image after image of her paintings online.  when i first saw a painting of hers (i think it was at the MOMA) i was amazed at how small and precious it was - again that sense intimacy.
Ms. Peyton really influenced how i paint and draw and see my own art.  for awhile, i thought i needed to create something that had some very deep, angsty meaning if i wanted to call it art.  something locked with heavy political or social commentary - definitely nothing frivolous about it at all.  but now i wasn't afraid to take that subject matter that interested me (like models, actors, fashion) and see the beautiful art in them.  and that, kids, is how i really began to enjoy painting for the pure sake of painting.    

my own portrait of Ms. Peyton that i did in 2005.  probably doesn't stand justice against her own work but oh well ....

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