Hello! Welcome to the first installment of a weekly blog that I'll be writing for GCCA where I'll introduce you to a new artist each week. The artists I choose will run a full range in all demographic categories and I'm hoping that I'll be able to communicate my excitement about art and painting in general to you.
The first Artist of the Week is painter Martha Armstrong. I know Martha well - I met her when she came to Dartmouth as a critic and then I worked for her Philadelphia (Gross McCleaf Gallery) for a number of years. I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with her paintings and seeing them is always a wonderful experience.
Martha paints primarily from observation. She works on these paintings on site, directly in front of her subject. Her inventiveness derives from how disciplined she is about coming to a subject that she's painted repeatedly and assuming she knows nothing about what it looks like or feels. This is an easy thing to talk about doing, but much harder to hold yourself to it once you start working. Her gift is this sort of forgetfulness, which allows her to push her paintings to a new place despite the fact that she has painted a scene many times.
Here's an excerpt from an essay that I wrote for a retropspective of Martha's work that Gross McCleaf Gallery mounted in 2009:
"Martha’s ability to teach through her paintings has always fascinated me. By looking at her paintings, I am able to discern how they were made: to identify which decisive strokes preceded others and to follow the complex set of decisions that led to this visual conclusion. With time, each of her decisions makes itself clear, and more importantly, the reasons behind those decisions present themselves. It is this intentionality disguised as spontaneity that makes her paintings so compelling. Martha is able to maintain a sharp balance in which things that are seemingly impulsive are considered gestures with clear motivations behind their execution. Despite this, the paintings are not overworked, as Martha never hesitates to put paint down once she has reached a decision."
She is a wonderful artist for painters of any level to look at and learn from. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do!
See you next week!