Peeling back the layers.

I just can’t get enough of Andrew Wyeth.

I read a disturbing but fascinating book about this mysterious painter several years ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. He’s still alive and working to this day, though he’s well into his eighties now.

He’s always been plagued with controversy, which seems amazingly silly when you consider some of the truly controversial artists today, but back when he was starting out, things were different, realism and rural scenes were out, urban life and abstraction were in.

Then there’s the whole Helga Pictures (that’s her below on the right) saga where he secretly painted a family friend, Helga, in various situations including many nude, for 15 years unbeknownst to his own wife and the model’s husband. That was the part of the book when I wanted to slap him and ask, “What’s wrong with you?” But from his perspective, skewed as it may be, the secret of the Helga paintings, hidden from all critical eyes, was the spark that he thought he was loosing, the fuel that pushed him to create some 240+ works all of amazing depth and moving quality. Still, I can’t imagine the trust that was washed away from his marriage after that. Its just something worth sharing with your spouse, in my humble opinion.

Regardless of his life choices, his skill with the brush is exquisite. You really need to spend some time with these paintings to appreciate the complex emotions displayed in such seemingly common scenes. For instance in Christina’s World (above left), what appears to be a girl resting in a field is actually a woman who doesn’t have use of her legs and is forced to drag herself inch by inch back to the safety of her house.

I am heavily influenced by this “its not exactly what it seems” undercurrent in my own paintings. Its exciting to me, to look at a scene and see more than what’s there at first glance. Some call this over analyzing, I call it peeling back the layers.

We have an Andrew Wyeth in our living room and I stare at it often.

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