The Influence of Women with Aristides Atelier
It is austere and profound studies that make great painters and sculptors. One lives all one’s life on this foundation, and if it is lacking, one will only be mediocre. Jean-Léon Gérôme
This online exhibition features student and graduate paintings from the Aristides Atelier, at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, WA where Master artist, Juliette Aristides offers foundational skills necessary for realist artists. We connect with this atelier through our collections of Richard Lack paintings, whose atelier was the source of her training. In our third collaboration with Aristides Atelier we present the themed exhibition The Influence of Women and the continued story of atelier training.
The term “Classical Realism” was coined by Lack and a group of atelier-trained realist artists communicating their connection to academic traditions, coupled with a modern way of seeing. It embraces classicism, realism, and an impressionist style using rigorous atelier apprenticeships, intensive mentoring, and an academic method of drawing and painting. While ‘Realistic’ might, in a narrow way, define a work of art with recognizable objects, the broad stroke doesn’t do justice to the thoughtful insight of this movement. Simple objects become as beautiful as the most famous portrait. Meaning and insight resonate for those taking the time to ponder.
The theme of this exhibition was chosen to coincide with the 100th anniversary of women in America finally achieving their right to vote. Artists were asked to explore the women who have influenced their life and art. Artist Statements are included online to enrich our experience; to really have a rich experience, look closely at the artwork before reading the statement, and then revisit the image.
Curator of Education
Maryhill Museum of Art
On Saturday, June 13 we held a virtual reception with some of the artists featured in this exhibition. The artists answered questions that were submitted in advance and also talked briefly about their work. You can view a replay of the event by clicking the button below. You will need to enter a password to view the recording. The password is: 2b^14###
Pastel on Canson paper
19″ x 25″
I was born in Kuwait in the late fifties. As a child, I was interested in arts and drawing. I used to draw everything and anything that captured my attention. During elementary school, I used to collect chalk butts and draw cartoon characters, such as Popeye and Olive Oyle and Casper the friendly ghost on a fiberglass hen house in our backyard. As I grew older my love for art and the choice of subjects grew with me. I realized that I liked drawing faces. Faces are fascinating. Not only the eyes are windows to the soul, but also the muscles, the bones, and the lines that the light and shadow or the age creates, tell stories and reflect the uniqueness and striking similarities of us – humans.
Unfortunately, the environment I was growing in, whether at home, school, or the society was not conducive to female artists to thrive. To this day, there is no Art Academy or Art Department at the university for studying arts. So, becoming an artist was a difficult option for me to pursue.
When I came to Seattle I started looking for art classes and workshops to fulfill my dream of becoming a portraiture and figurative artist. My search brought me to Gage Academy for Art. I specifically chose the Aristides Atelier for classical drawing – my passion. Now as the first year approaches its end, I am glad to have chosen this place and fortunate to be learning from one of the best classical and realist artists Juliette Aristides. This portrait was done in the quarantine as part of our online training.
Buttercup (After Rosa Bonheur/-1866- ‘A White Horse’)
Oil on linen panel
11 3/4″ x 16″
Occasionally, the seeming insurmountable obstacles of time and space are transcended, and the universe throws us a bone, reminding us that we are all connected, and that none of us is alone in the ubiquitous work of living. For me, one of those moments came at the end of my second year of studying painting. I met Rosa Bonheur. Rosa was a French woman painter who lived in the 1800’s and, somehow, came to me when I needed her, to remind me that I belong, and that there are countless, often faceless and nameless others, that have managed to walk before me, and are there with me whether I can see them or not. This master copy of Rosa’s ‘A White Horse’ is done in gratitude to all the women that have come before me, to make my time possible. Thank you Rosa.
Oil on panel
36″ x 26″
Yael is my beautiful sister-in-law, and a mother of two young daughters, who was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. This diagnosis launched her on a hero’s journey of struggle and overcoming. Yael’s path was not a straight one: a diagnosis followed by a clear treatment and recovery, rather, her double mastectomy was followed by turbulence and trauma. This experience shaped her mentally as well as physically. She taught me that we don’t know our own strength until we are unavoidably faced with what life hands us. Yael put one foot in front of the other, walking through fire, until she came out the other side scarred but strong. Yael’s scars neither define her or diminish her.
Yael does not feel like a hero in a journey but a survivor of a trauma, yet Yael is my hero and she is utterly beautiful, all the more because of her courage and overcoming.
Oil on Linen
33″ x 53″
As soon as I heard about this exhibit I thought of Louise Palermo (Lou) in her Halloween dress, that she created, of Mother Nature. It took a lot of coordination, but Lou and I were able to link up so she could pose for me in her dress, and had the honor of getting Friderike Heuer to photograph her for me. Louise was also kind enough to let me borrow the dress that I had on a mannequin in my studio to use as reference. I wanted to create this as a thank you to Louise for everything she has done for Aristides Atelier students and so many others as well.
Dream of Pacific Northwest
Acrylic on mylar
The reflective look on my friend, Yarrow’s face combined with the fading Northwest sunlight captured my glaze. I think women exhibit a strong internal strength that is often quietly shown though their gesture and expression. I resonated with that look as I tend to go to that introspective space inside my mind as well.
Self-Portrait in a Fancy Dress
Charcoal on Toned Paper
18″ x 24″
I’ve often depicted myself in my art out of convenience. I’m the model most available to myself, and I’m free. For female painters of the Italian Renaissance, painting the self was more about restriction than convenience and cost. Female artists were forbidden from joining life drawing classes and turned to the mirror for the same practice that was granted to their male peers.
Throughout the pages of history, you’ll find several notable female artists, but you find them amongst countless men. Women have historically been the objectified muse, not the visionary behind the brush. Looking back to the great masters of the Renaissance, names like Da Vinci and Michelangelo come to mind. Sofonisba Anguissola (1532–1625) was one of those few notable female Renaissance painters who, in 1556, painted Self-portrait at the Easel Painting a Devotional Panel. In it, she wields the tools of an artist, paints a scene common to works of the era, and, most strikingly, she challenges the viewer with direct eye contact. In this painting, Sofonisba demonstrates the skill of a master and almost dares the viewer to question her abilities as a painter in a time that women were far from accepted as artists.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that female artists began to be more widely accepted; in France, some salons began to allow a select number of female artists at double the tuition rate of their male counterparts. Fast forward to today, an overwhelming majority of my peers as an art major in college were women. I’ve experienced the modern perception that being an artist is something highly feminine. Not only that, and perhaps on the other side of the coin, there has been a shift in the respect of art as a career. Where once artists were seen as an integral part of high-society, we are now, more often, a punchline. When I tell people what I do, I’m met with clichés like “don’t quit your day job”, and I’m informed how easy it is to “draw all day” or how I’ll “eventually return to a real career”. Artists, regardless of gender, open ourselves up to a myriad of criticism and misunderstanding and we often find common ground amongst each other as outcasts of society.
I chose to create this charcoal self-portrait for the Mary Hill Exhibition as an ode to women like Sofonisba Anguissola, who fought to earn respect in a profession where they found no welcome. I’ve incorporated classical elements inspired by 19th century artists and the traditional portrait of a high-society woman in a fancy dress. I am my own model, posing in front of a mirror that was once so important to my predecessors. But I’m not looking at you. I’m looking away in indifference. I won’t dare you to challenge me; I’ve already heard it all. Women in art have always faced adversity, but as female artists of the 21st century, we have the great privilege to take back what beauty means to us and choose how we want to be depicted to the viewer.
Charcoal/white chalk on Fabriano paper
14″ x 11″
The title of this portrait of my partner Liz, “As Herself”, simultaneously references her professional life as an actor, and my desire as an artist to accurately translate the inner workings and character of my subjects. Liz’s commitment to creativity and intelligent self inquiry is inspiring to me on both a personal and an artistic level, and this portrait is my attempt to convey those qualities to the viewer with clarity and immediacy.
The New Season
Oil on hardboard
18″ x 20″
The woman depicted in The New Season is a person who works with the land for both her livelihood and her creative practice. Her interaction with the landscape of southern Vermont, though interrupted by the enormous influence of the pandemic, endures the emerging shifts in behavior and experience that have abruptly become part of our culture’s current narrative. The respirator on the woman’s face, which visually interrupts her integration into the landscape and rejects any pretense of timelessness, embeds her into the chaos of the human experience that exists at the perceived edge of nature. The symbol of the respirator acknowledges too that the breadth of human experience implicitly involves the trepidation of ambiguity as a fundamental element of being human. The inevitability of fear and suffering as an element of the human experience is often perceived as apart from nature, though it is parallel to and derivative of it.
Oil on linen canvas
16″ x 14″
This painting is a tribute to my mother, with deep gratitude for the many ways she instilled in me a lifelong interest in art. When I was growing up she’d often set up a still life composition on a table after dinner and we’d sit and draw it together; at the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was. Wherever we lived or traveled, art museum visits were part of the itinerary. We lived in Washington, D.C. for several years and I loved our visits to the National Gallery. The items in this still life painting are very symbolic. As a young woman my mother took ceramics classes at the Arts and Crafts Society in Portland, as did I as a teenager, following in her footsteps. The stoneware vase in this painting was thrown by Ken Hendry, the first director of Pottery Northwest. My mother also had a love of gardening and flower arranging — therefore the eucalyptus leaves. The seashell represents one of her favorite places, the Oregon coast.
GRACE ATHENA FLOTT
Forged in the Flames (Self-portrait at 28)
Oil on panel
28″ x 32″
I am compelled to make art that centers and celebrates identities that are erased. This is my first painted self-portrait since surviving a severe fire-related injury and I would never have had the courage to paint it if not for the countless women who showed me that I was not alone. It is my way of saying thank you and at the same time calling out to all the other people who need to hear that message.
Women like me do not fit into our hegemonic ideal of beauty. Recovery from such a trauma is lifelong; however, people with visible burn scars experience daily reminders of our injury when we look in the mirror or when others reflect or comment on our “unusual” appearance. Such moments force a reckoning between the past trauma and the present healing, the past and present selves or the internal and external selves. Anyone who inhabits a physical “difference” that deviates from the norm must negotiate their worth in this context. What is most salient for my personal experience is that I can choose when and where to show my scars. Not all burn survivors have this choice; quite often, we are filled with shame and choose to live with our scars in private. I have chosen to paint myself, scars and all, in an attempt to upset my urge to run and hide. By describing the true nature of my skin I am asserting my value in being seen and the inherent value in all lived physical realities.
Hear the Wilderness Listen
Oil on linen on panel
40″ x 30″
This painting is my interpretation of river stones on the banks of the Skagit River, a waterway of critical importance to the survival of salmon and Puget Sound orcas.
Just as women are historically society’s caretakers, my focus as a woman painter is on our natural environment and the harmful influences of runaway capitalism and toxic corporate greed (often, but not necessarily, the products of male ego).
My composition was inspired by Joan Mitchell’s energetic “City Landscape” (1955). Mitchell once characterized her work as being “about landscape, not about me.” Unlike her contemporaries in the Abstract Expressionist movement who threw their egos and male bravado at their canvases, she did not prioritize self-expression.
This strikes me as a distinctly female approach, and one to which I relate. In my own work, I’m interested in exploring themes of nature and humanity’s unfortunate influences on it. I have little interest in depicting and exalting human figures; our species has already had enough attention.
Oil on Linen
24″ x 30″
My Muse is of a beloved woman in my life. She has been instrumental to me as an artist in countless ways, and I am constantly amazed and inspired by her strength, wisdom and love. It took approximately 30 hours of posing from life to complete this portrait.
480 Million Years
Oil on Linen
22 ”x 37”
This piece is inspired by Mother Nature. The majesty and beauty of a creature that has endured for 480 million years. The horseshoe crab existed when dinosaurs roamed the earth. They have stood the test of time.
A Portrait of My Mother
Oil on Panel
13.” x 17.5″
A portrait of my mother. Her hands, the vessel through which she lived and loved. They cooked and cleaned, nurtured and knit. They wiped away tears- many for others and quietly her own. They changed diapers, embraced, bandaged, gardened and groomed. They wrung themselves with worry and together they prayed. When I asked her to model for me, she asked if she might be able to put some lotion on them- so they would be pretty. If only she knew…..
Citizen of the World
Oil and gold metal leaf on linen
26″ x 16″
I had worked with the beautiful young woman who posed for the painting on a previous project and I got to know a bit about her background. She was born in South Africa but immigrated to the US at a young age. Her childhood was very difficult and she suffered numerous traumas. Despite this, she persevered and became a successful performance artist and a prominent activist for social justice. Unfortunately, she has had difficulties acquiring citizenship in both the US, and in her birth country. This got me thinking about how the artificial construct of national boundaries shape lives. I decided to paint her as a ‘Citizen of the World’ and I depicted her looking strong and confident with an antique world map behind her. The background is painted on gold metal leaf and I was thinking about medieval icon paintings when I designed the composition. In iconography, gold leaf signifies the holiness and importance of the subject. I my painting, I wanted to convey the equal importance of this young woman, and in turn, all of humanity, regardless of nationality.
Portrait of a 106 Year Old Woman
Oil on linen
20″ x 16″
This is a portrait of my wife’s 106 year old grandmother, Camille. She emigrated from Sicily to the United States when she was a young girl. As an adult, she worked as a seamstress in a Cleveland factory. Eventually she married a fellow immigrant from southern Italy. Together, they lived the American dream. A lifelong bowling enthusiast, she bowled a perfect game when in her late seventies, for which she got to meet First Lady Barbara Bush. When her husband passed away, she moved in with my wife’s parents, and so, I’ve known her almost as long as I’ve known my wife. She doesn’t cook much anymore, but she was famous for her cooking — especially her pasta sauce. When she finished teaching me the recipe, she smacked me on the behind and said: “Now you’re Italian!” I’d long wanted to paint her portrait, but I knew that she would not sit for it. Eventually, I realized that I had better do so before it was too late. I managed to gather reference material while she was watching television. She gave me a very suspicious look when I was doing a preparatory drawing, but I managed to get the studies I needed. I completed the painting in my studio and last summer, I was able to present the painting to her, and, to my surprise, she was quite pleased with it.
Oil on linen
12 x 16″
At the time of this show I am 8 months pregnant with my first child and contemplating an evolving identity as artist as woman. More than ever I feel the strength of my female mentors (Juliette Aristides especially) and close colleagues (many showing in this room) whose leaps of faith and profound devotion in their own lives’ work help me illuminate this path forward.
Virtutem Forma Decorat
Graphite, Sanguine and Gouache on Toned Paper
11″ x 11″
Having had the pleasure of visiting the National Gallery in Washington DC, I was surprised to come across a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. I stood admiring the portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, before realizing that behind the panel, Da Vinci had inscribed the text, ‘Virtutem Forma Decorat’, which is Latin for ‘Beauty Adorns Virtue’. For artists, the goal of capturing the depth of beauty can be daunting, but when the subject is a beautiful person that is also full of warmth and kindness, the process can be one of great joy, as it was for me to work with lovely Audrey. The great master’s words ring true.
Mark Kang-O'Higgins / Marcús Kang-ÓhÚiginn
Oil on Panel
36″ x 48″
I am a colleague of Juliette at the Gage Academy of Art, where Juliette has been incredibly influential at the school. Juliette has been running the longest running successful atelier program at the school and has with her work there, her exhibitions and her books, had a huge influence upon thousands of artists. It is a privilege to be part of her show.
The woman depicted in the piece is Yoon-Hee Kang-O’Higgins and she is holding our first child. The birth was difficult and traumatic but she handled it with courage as she does everything in life. Yoon is a compassionate, intelligent and brave person who never shrinks from a challenge and has had a great positive impact on our family and her community.
Oil on linen and newspaper
22″ x 34″
This painting was inspired by the concern all the mothers around the world share – the concern about the future of their children. The name of the painting is New Generation. It was painted on linen and newspaper, which were chosen for their symbolic power. The newspaper represents the world the children are “swimming into.” Each article headline addresses the challenges of tomorrow, but also the belief that the new generation will pull through. The central headline, written in Russian, says “our belief in the children, warms our hearts.” I have chosen to use articles in three different languages to reflect on my background and identity. Through living in different countries, I have experienced just how different cultures can be. I wanted to make this piece more inclusive of those cultures, as well as make it more personal. As a mother myself, I feel this daily concern for my children who are about to embark on their greatest adventure. Nonetheless, I feel optimistic and think that the new generations attitude, ideas, and willingness to fight for what’s right will give us all a better future.
Oil on Linen
22″ x 24″
This painting tells a story of a young woman who dreamed of her weeding day as the beginning of a new life. Like many young girls, she imagined her future to be full of beautiful things, moments, and people. But things didn’t turn out how she thought they would. The choice of palette and setup depicts the contrast between expectations and reality. This message behind the piece isn’t actually about the story, it’s about a feeling – a feeling of pain, frustration, and sorrow. This is a feeling that many people go through at some point of their lives, for one reason or another. When I created this piece, I was feeling the same way. Although the story in the painting was different, I used it as a way to release the emotions I felt inside and lift the weight off of my heart. A piece of art is not only a visual image – it’s an artist’s energy, state of mind, and heart.
Oil and Gold Leaf on Linen
90″ x 110″
I’ve always been fascinated by fire; its role in the development of our civilization, its quiet warmth and illumination, its power, speed and destructive potential. While I can’t consciously claim that the stories below inspired Semillas, they were evoked as I developed the piece, and upon reflection after it was completed.
A childhood memory encompassing this fascination involves me as a curious six year old boy, lighting a ball point pen on fire over the concrete floor of my basement (much to the chagrin of my parents). The plastic case bubbled and shrank as it burned. Then, to my surprise and panic, little fire balls of ink began to drip from the ignited pen, creating a flaming puddle on the floor. Startled, I attempted to stomp it out, but only succeeded in getting the flaming ink stuck to my shoes. Only after escalating my stomp up to a full-fledged freak-out dance was the fire puddle finally extinguished.
Several years later as an adolescent, I recall images of Kuwait’s burning oil fields on the nightly news. Like the ink ablaze in the basement, I remember finding this storm of fire utterly terrifying and almost other worldly. How those oil wells could burn incessantly, too powerful to be extinguished, and fill the sky with clouds of smoke as far as the eye could see.
It is entirely possible that these memories were woven into the content of Semillas, but to me this is hypothetical. The gilded fire droplets in the painting harken back to those ink fireballs from my youth. Whether these memories subconsciously inspired me, I cannot say for certain.
I can say that it is the tiny figures inside those droplets that ultimately inspired the title Semillas, which means ‘seeds’ in Spanish.
In the experimental stages of Semilllas, I began working with the elements of fire and gold on both visual and thematic levels. I was also inspired by artworks of the Hindu goddess Kali; who represents elements of death, time, and doomsday and is often associated with sexuality and violence, but is also considered a strong mother-figure and symbolic of motherly-love. Kali also embodies shakti – feminine energy, creativity and fertility.
Semillas was developed through many studies and iterations. Like many of my projects, I began with a vision in mind that I presumed simply needed extraction to the canvas. However, like trying to translate a dream, the moment pencil hit paper, the friction began.
The extensive studies were the result of frustration as my initial vision grew elusive as I attempted to translate it to paper. I tried many variations: in one of its early incarnations, the figure had multiple arms in a spiral gesture. Another had a frenzied pattern of hands and blades. Yet another with the figure descending out of a cloud formation, its head and arms obscured.
None of these studies flowed directly from that original vision, and ultimately, I’m glad they didn’t. They provided the raw material to allow the project to evolve. Through this process the painting became more simplified and elemental. Interestingly, I think that helped bring out the essence of the original vision, just in a different form than I had imagined.
MARTIJN CASPAR SWART
With Ruthless Innocence
Oil on prepared linen
27″ x 32″
The nature of painting has long been dear to my heart and while I painted naively in my youth I’ve continued ever since to strive like hell with hopes to achieve the highest skill in this craft. The human figure is the most universal language, which has power to evoke incredible empathy and emotion in people across the globe. Therefore it was a most natural subject of interest and pursuit as I sought teachers and techniques. After years of study independently, I joined the Juliette Aristides Atelier for Classical Figurative Painting. Upon graduating I gained a strong concept of human anatomy, design, and a rich lineage of tradition. I then travelled to Norway to explore Humanist philosophies, ideals of Kitsch, and the practice of painting sophisticated narrative compositions with Odd Nerdrum. Today I present the fruits of my progress in order to grow yet further.
MARTIJN CASPAR SWART
Bride of Bacchus
Oil on prepared linen
36″ x 77″
You see this woman, or is she a God? This depiction of Ariadne, the wife of Bacchus (Greek Dionysus), evokes an illusive twilight moment when she leaves one world to arrive at another. From life to immortality.In this twofold moment we catch her partly suffering in pain of losing of one lover and partly embracing the furious beauty of new love. It is these moments in life that overwhelm us with exhilaration. She is both frail and ideal at once. The viewer experiences the transformative upward feeling as you compare the earthen ruddiness of her feet to her nimble hands and her hands to her glowing face, at each step becoming godlike as her crown shines in the heavens.
Hank, I Figured It Out. Goodbye
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 42″
Women are the backbone of the world. Most of the virtuous attributes I carry came to me by Women; compassion, mindfulness, forgiveness, gratitude, nurturing, the knowledge that life is full of hard work to be shouldered with or without compensation, and a love of the beautiful including a wide scope of what exactly beauty may look like. As a male artist, I fall into the category of those influenced by Women. “Influence” is a slippery adjective to choose as it could trivialize the role women have taken in my life, as though they dropped a suggestion here and there, that was possibly noteworthy; the general outlook of Patriarchy. I have been guided by women and very wise women at that. They continue to provide the voice of reason, now more than ever, that I seek for counsel and vision. With this painting, I call in my Mother, my closest and most profound influence. It contains the note I wish she had been given the support and wherewithal to have written. May she now rest in a bright and colorful place encircled by what she always found space in her heart to express; love and gratitude.
CLEO and BECKY
Charcoal and Conte Crayon on Paper
11″ X 15″
Cleo and Becky are two women in the Okanogan County who worked together to manage over 700 cow/calf pairs for a grazing association. Between May and November, these 1,400 cattle grazed tens of thousands of private and public lands. Among other responsibilities, it was Cleo and Becky’s job to make sure the bovines were where they were supposed to be at any given time. This involved long days and occasionally roundups at full speed through the forests.
These women know horses. I am in awe of their total confidence with these powerful creatures. Horses can read people. Horses have telepathic super powers. They can sense a molecule of fear. Clearly these women do not fear their horses. It is impressive and baffling to me what these powerful creatures will do for their people. When I was growing up in Bellevue, in the 1960’s, I was obsessed with horses. Lots of my friends and classmates were as well. There were no horses in our neighborhoods, but the school library was full of horse books. It was “A Thing”, back then. It was magical. The real-world simpatico that Cleo and Becky have with their horses, taps into that memory of imagination, fearlessness and the magic of the inexplicable bonds possible between humans and animals.
Etude in Blue
Oil on Canvas
16″ x 20″
I am captivated by the idea of sitting like a lady. Women have always had rules about how they can sit, and I enjoy painting images of women flaunting them.
Oil on linen
21″ x 16″
While Circe, the mythological sorceress, is not an actual person, she’s an archetype of a powerful and influential woman. Her story reminds us that powerful women, from myths of Circe down through history to our own time, can get laden with baggage and sometimes even vilified instead of being celebrated for their capabilities and genius.
Oil on panel
48″ x 60″
Painting is the language that comes most naturally to me. A mark represents a moment in time, the sum of which is intended to capture a fragment of a fleeting thought or dream. The genesis of a work is both delicate and violent, I use this rhythm to investigate my astonishment and fascination with human form and consciousness. I choose painting because it is unassuming but powerful in its silence. My work is representational, but always searching for that thing beyond the surface.
The women in my work are not portrayed as sentimental or overly sexualized, as they have been for much of art history. When I approach the female figure, I am neither angry nor accepting of the historical burden they bear. The women I want to paint represent figures of agency and complexity, regardless of their gender. They represent how I see myself, and other women in my life. Human.