Writing Archive

Liquid on Stone: Wendy Artin's Parthenon Friezes

The New York Sun, November 16, 2011 (read there)

Wendy Artin's life-size watercolor interpretations of the Elgin Marbles are such extraordinary technical feats that my initial reaction to them, as a lesser practitioner of the medium, was gut-sinking envy. Typically, for this degree of realism, one would begin with a preparatory sketch in pencil. Artin dives in with watercolor on damp paper, corralling pools of pigment with a brush and a rag until they give her the shape she wants. If you're unfamiliar with the materials, imagine trying to draw a portrait with orange juice spilled on a kitchen counter.

Artin lives in Rome and paints the Italian cityscape, still lifes, and figures with equal aplomb. Examples thereof grace the walls of Gurari Collections alongside her paintings of the Parthenon frieze sculptures. Although faithful to the Greek originals, they aren't mere studies. Artin has captured the soft British light that falls on the ancient stone. Life-size depiction forces her to piece together multiple sheets of paper. She is at once paying the sculptures due homage, studying them for artistic clues, and using them to reach upwards in ambition and scale. What might ensue from a watercolorist with hand skills of this amplitude, having empowered herself to work at a size normally associated with oil painting, is an exciting thing to ponder.

Word count: 212

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