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Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City Artists’

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“Double Valentine with Silenus”, 72″ x 84″, oil on linen, 2011

To paint the observation of a thing with care is to evoke tenderness, and to assume a posture of humbleness about one’s relationship to that subject.  Jessie Fisher’s paintings–seen recently in a survey in Kansas City–are made up of many such moments.  Virtuosity through generosity.  Taut linework creates both tension and resolution–a ribcage pushing outward against the skin covering, a folded cloth gently covering a man’s shoulders, a lock of curly hair.  Layers of paint create slightly-flushed skin tones.  A lot of these things defy reproduction, but are essential to the experience of the paintings.  
At the same time, the paintings are monumental-sized and deal with epic themes and narratives.  Moments of subtle and not-so-subtle pictorial ambiguity occurs in nearly all of the paintings–the reality of the studio in harmony with, and in conflict with, the subject of the paintings.  In The Vexations of Art, Svetlana Alpers writes about such occurences in the work of Vermeer and his contemporaries, “Pictorial ambiguity had, of course, been entertained by painters before the seventeenth century.  The difference that the studio makes is that it frames the ambiguity as originating under particular circumstances.  In the studio, the individual’s experience of the world can be staged as if it were at its beginning.”   Alpers concludes the section with a statement that seems especially appropriate to Jessie Fisher’s paintings: “This gives to studio painting its probing, forward lean.  It is a matter of discovery, not demonstration.”
In the interview that follows, Fisher discusses her studio practice, whether or not its useful to be conservative,  her use of pictorial ambiguity and other ideas that drive her work.  

Many of us don’t grow up with painting and art as part of our daily life, especially many of us away from the coasts and our routes into the fine arts are circuitous.  Was that your experience?  How and when did you say, ‘I’m going to do this?’
I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and after 6 months my family moved around a bit and found ourselves in Minneapolis where I grew up in a suburb called Wayzata, and to my mother’s excitement, attended college at the University of Minnesota, first as an architecture major, then mathematics with a Studio minor and then as a Fine Art major. When I made the switch to the art department I had planned on finding another school to attend but was offered an apprenticeship with a fresco painter which pretty much finished my undergraduate credits in Minneapolis. I attended the first year of the MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with Scott Seebart (The painter whom I have been with since we were 17. We sat next to eachother in an art class. I asked him to come over to my house after school and help me paint a reflection on a blue bottle.) Realizing this program was not the right environment for us at the time, we dropped out, lived in a lovely green microbus, drove around the country visiting friends at various MFA programs.  We settled at the University of Iowa where I was finally able to take my first life drawing and painting courses at the age of 29. I had always wanted to be a figurative painter but had no methodology as to how to approach the subject, and in Iowa, I was able to sit in on numerous classes taught by Ron Cohen, as well as teach life drawing myself for several years which was essential as I was able to put into words what I had been struggling with. Teaching essentially allowed me to began my life as a serious painter. I applied for a position at the Kansas City Art Institute and am currently an Associate Professor in Painting where I teach amazing students in their sophomore year in painting and elective drawing courses that focus on Life Drawing and Sculpture.

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