"Art Now and Then" does not mean art occasionally. It means art NOW as opposed to art THEN. It means art in 2020 as compared to art many years ago...sometimes many, many, MANY years ago. It is an attempt to make that art relevant now, letting artists back then speak to us now in the hope that we may better understand them, and in so doing, better understand ourselves and the art produced today.
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Monday, June 11, 2012
Every artist needs a dose of humility from time to time. I get mine from other artists, those about my age, painting in about my style, using techniques not unlike my own, turning out work that is far and away better than my own. As I said, it keeps me humble. Scott Prior keeps me humble. We have much in common, actually. I was born in 1945. He was born in 1949 so that means, alas, he's somewhat younger than I am. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1972. I graduated from Ohio University the same year. He chose the daring road of the struggling, independent artist. I chose the safe road of teaching with it's dependable paycheck every two weeks. Over the past 28 years, we've both painted continuously. We both rely heavily upon photos in painting our pictures (though he augments them by working from life more than I do). He works in oils, I used to, then switched to acrylics. One of his first works out of college was purchased by a museum (the DeCordova). One of mine will be...someday...maybe...then again...
Nanny and Rose, 1983, Scott Prior
Scott is a realist...surrealist almost...at least many of his earliest works were. During the 70s and 80s his favorite subjects were scenes of his home environment. His attractive wife, Nanny, is in many of them. Nanny and Rose from 1983 is typical. It's painted on their front porch, a warm, summer day, his wife in his robe with red socks, the neighborhood evident through the screens. Rose, their Golden Retriever, lies at her feet. It other paintings, the house has a lived-in look, whether there is a figure present or not, they resemble giant still-lifes, with the emphasis on the "life" part. Many are almost life-sized. The lighting is flawless, the technique exquisite, the forms and compositions bespeak an artist who took no shortcuts in drafting. And while Realism can sometimes be cold and lonely, Prior's never is. There is a sureness in his visualization that allows him to work to completion one section of the painting at a time, seldom having to go back and retouch his work except to sometimes adjust flesh tones to the finished environment.
Max and Nellie, 2004, Scott Prior
From experience, I can tell you photos help a lot along this line, but the oft-intended compliment (which isn't really), "It looks just like a photo," doesn't apply here. In Prior's case, it looks just like life. The same attention is rendered to a Persian rug on the floor or a rumpled bedspread as to the portrait likeness of his wife. He is disciplined, acutely observant, self-taught, and so much better than me I can only gape at his work in awe. Today the DeCordova Museum owns five of Prior's works. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston owns one. So do dozens of wealthy collectors. Mine usually go to those who are merely comfortably "well-off." Sigh...gulp...my dose of humility for the day.