Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Influence of our Clarence Steele Painting

I grew up with this painting of a chicken coop by Clarence Steele. Dad liked it and bought it at an art show in the 1950s, which really impresses me, because of its pronounced Cubist qualities. 

When the watercolorist Edmond J. Fitzgerald visited the house, he took one look at the canvas and boldly declared, "This artist studied with Mark Tobey." He was exactly right, which isn't surprising because Fitz himself had studied with Tobey

I've always loved this painting. When the heat was on during my final semester in Graduate school at SMU, I decided to narrow- focus on black and white paintings of the bird cages at the Dallas Zoo for my qualifying thesis show. 

I was intrigued with exploring the idea of playing with the spatial tension of the outline volume of the cage bars and the high-contrast patterns of cast shadows and bird shapes (2-D pattern vs. 3-D depth). It created an "ambiguous gestalt" where the image would emerge out an flat abstract pattern to a recognizable picture space, especially when viewed from a distance. Only later did I realize that this was sort of a subconscious variation on the Cubist painting I'd grown up with.

Clarence Steele

Don Mangus

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