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April 2012
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
Page 7   

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Jeffrey Hale . . . from page 1

There is also a uniquely symbolist quality in Hale's work -- in the historic sense of artists such as Gauguin and Bernard -- that allows these stylistic qualities to be interpreted. Take “Man with the Shiny Pate,” where Hale has chosen a burnt red background that gradiates to a heavy and hard black.|5| The sitter, with a sharp goateed chin and an aquiline nose, occupies the right half of the space, his head painted in planes that indicate a cubist inspiration. The eyes, bright blue behind large black-framed glasses, are large and punctuated with arching eyebrows. He wears a classic black suit with a small-knotted tie and white shirt. From this, the impression one might get is an unassuming yet confident intellectual in the classic school. The background lends a no-nonsense atmosphere of seriousness; the contours of the subject's head reveal a disproportionately large brain; the large glasses smack of intellectualism as does the sharp goatee; the suit fits the model of the 1960’s intellectual and the eyes are the most telling and sensitively rendered. From these we read intelligence and a sense of security without pretense. It is a wonderfully articulated rendering not only of a man, but of a person.

Beyond Hale's extraordinary stylistic ability is his talent to do just this; not only render the flesh of the man but the person beneath. When Alberti first spoke his prescriptive words, they alluded to a general state of obtaining a measure of the inner quality of whomever is being painted by the way the external is rendered. Rembrandt famously broke ground in this pursuit, imbuing his paintings with pathos: he achieved moments of acute sensitivity in images of the poor, and even in his large group portraits did his best to describe individual differences. English portraitists like Reynolds and Gainsborough fell into a frenzy of “romantic sensibility,” and the basic Albertian principle was abstracted in different ways through most of the Modernist period. And today portraitists are free to experiment and invent individual methodologies. Hale achieves not only the Albertian “movements of the soul,” but renders a subject that is fully dynamic, with a particular emotion or emotions, visible states of consciousness, and individual qualities such as confidence or meekness that they use to convey their persona.

The figure in “Wearing the Face” is very much alive on the canvas.|8| She is painted against a van Gogh-yellow background that allows her dark features to boldly assert themselves. She is African American with short, cropped dark hair and her simple crew neck top is black. The head is oval and long with a pointed chin and exaggerated high cheekbones. Her lips are full. The nose is elongated and set between a pair of large hazel eyes beneath broad arched eyebrows. The neck is long and sinewy. The posture of the neck and the position of the head lend a sense of dignity. The lips show an expression of secure stability. The eyes, almost always the primary and most expressive element in Hale's portraits, have a gaze with an immensity of depth of feeling. They seem to say “Although I am gentle I am strong. I may not be able to change the world but I am a realist and I believe and know myself. I am sincere and hide nothing and have nothing to hide.”

Says Hale, “It is about the person and it is about me at the time. It’s about the connection that is on a subconscious level.” This connection is something Alberti, ostensibly, would not have thought possible. It reflects the subjective state of the sitter and the subjective mindset of Hale as he works, and the result is apparent. An exquisite example that attests to this “subjective portraiture” is “Fiery elegance: Haley.”|9| This is one of Hale’s finest achievements with a wealth of nuances that burst from the canvas. The ground is a dark Rembrandtish mixture of browns and yellows. The hair (it might be ear-length or it might be pulled back, it's hard to tell) is carrot orange in locks that resemble flames. The bare skin is a faint pale pink. She has squared but narrow shoulders and a long slender neck. Her face is a mannered oval with a sharp chin. She has full, heart shaped lips and a long nose. This is set between large sea blue eyes beneath bold dark rounded eyebrows.

Haley's flesh is beautiful, feminine and adds an overall Classical tone to the portrait. Although she is bare she is modest: her shoulders are tilted and show a sense of reserve. We have already begun to know her. The neck is highly expressive and twists in a way that exudes confidence and poise. Her untamed hair is a sign of a possible care-free nature or a relaxed laissez-faire style. Her pursed lips reveal a sense of decision and composure. Yet again, the tale is told in the eyes. These eyes are what capture the attention immediately, even more so than the orange hair. These eyes add more to the Classical appeal and have a bold stoic quality to their façade that is intense in the cool blue, but they cannot hide the woman who thinks and feels deeply beneath.

These paintings reveal much about the nature of the sitter, but Hale is also proud that they are open to interpretation by different viewers. An excellent example of this is “Expanding Your Mind.” This striking image reveals a remarkable looking woman painted against a black background with a black overcoat. This sitter has bold features including a head with a mass of deep brick red hair, pale skin, rouge red lips and a stub nose set between glassy blue eyes. It might appear frightful to one viewer who may react to the weighty contrast of black and red with the figure of a woman with wild hair and frenzied eyes who is clearly mad. Another viewer may see this same woman as interestingly eccentric, with the hair of an artist whose penetrating eyes sees what others don’t.

Hale has proven himself as a gifted portraitist by defining his oeuvre in a field in which it is difficult to be truly original. He is certainly this, and is working well in the bounds of a secure methodology that amounts to a signature style that does not break rules but reaches greater dimension and meaning within them.

Exhibition Review: Provo
The Puzzle Pair
In the Covey's Related Linnie Brown and Marinus E. Wolf do the crossword together

Father and daughter artists Linnie Brown and Marinus E. Wolf base their current show, Related, on the theme of crosswords. Their paired pieces illustrate questions and answers from the trivial puzzles, one artist exploring the answer as the other poses the clue. It all started from Linnie’s opinion of her father’s work being reminiscent of the lines and geometry of crossword puzzles. Overall the concept of the show involved a cross-state (Brown is in Utah, Wolf in Oregon) process and a surprise finish. Brown and Wolf hunted crossword prompts from varying newspapers in their areas until they came up with enough to begin painting, separately, and not viewing the other’s completed work until they met back up in Utah. They completed ten works over a nine-month period of back and forth communication and finished the rest of the show over the following year. Hung side by side, these linked pieces and artists produce an engaging show.

Seeing the paired works hung together reminds visitors of the puzzle forms themselves, as they actually meet to create one larger piece. Their placement is a strong visual translation of “32 Down” and demonstrates their strength in concept. The proximity also exposes their absolute stylistic differences.

Brown’s interest in fine art started in high school and she pursued these studies in higher education, a surprise to her father. Her current work builds with colors and images that result in balanced and bright compositions. Her art reads as an open minded, but controlled type of collage. Compared to her father, Brown is the kid that colored all over the crossword page Wolf precisely completed without even so much as an eraser mark. Wolf’s art is careful, mathematical and geometric. He began practicing art more dedicatedly after retiring from the tech industry. His straight lines and exact shapes are notable, and in fact a nice break for the eyes after searching their maximized counterparts. While Brown's identity as the practicing artist is made more obvious by the direct contrast of hanging so close, Wolf’s sentiment opening night that, “I do what I want to do” is the unapologetic attitude of a true artist. Father and daughter work together is a celebration of tradition and family.

While the main premise of the show draws from Marinus’s geometric style, one of the stand out pieces abandons his characteristic methods. As the rigid lines are loosened a bit, the pieces work very well together in "Stashes" and "Stores." Brown hides pieces of crosswords and letters that reveal themselves below purples and reds. "Stores’" letters and layers are pictured next to Wolf’s lone mailbox, which mimics the colors of its neighboring work. The images seem more involved with one another. "Stashes" and "Stores" is a charming surprise from their crossword process.

Several very different, but successful works fill the rest of the gallery. "Sail" and "Leave Port" is a special combination for the father daughter team because of their history with sailing. Brown was responsible for "Leave Port" and her fluid structure does a brilliant job of portraying the clue. Wolf owned many boats over the course of his lifetime, and "Sail" unmistakably pictures its namesake. A nautical blue carries throughout both.

"Leave Port" is to "Sail" as "Create a Whole New Set of Problems" is to "Pandora’s Box." In this set, the remarkably similar shapes and related content are hard to believe. Such open-ended clues lead to such alike pieces. Brown’s climbing tower and Wolf’s use of the entire panel create one of the finest pieces in the show.

Related is a show to explore. Although we can’t expect that everyone will see the introductory text explaining the crossword concept, if at least a few titles are read, it is an easily recognizable theme. The work fits together well and the show is inventive, as each artist produced entirely different interpretations of related hints and clues.

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