• A Dress-Up Party for Mom

    Date posted: January 14, 2010 Author: jolanta
    Sometimes the planets’ line-up and the exploration of one’s artistic vision are a completely joyful, even miraculous, experience. The series, Arrangement in Green and Black: Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother, had serendipitous beginnings. I found a small print of Whistler’s painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother, at a neighborhood garage sale. As I stood among the piles of discarded belongings, I started thinking about the idea of portraiture, the strong compositional relationships going on within Whistler’s painting, and the evocative nature of unassuming details.

    Aline Smithson

    Sometimes the planets’ line-up and the exploration of one’s artistic vision are a completely joyful, even miraculous, experience. The series, Arrangement in Green and Black: Portrait of the Photographer’s Mother, had serendipitous beginnings. I found a small print of Whistler’s painting, Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter’s Mother, at a neighborhood garage sale. As I stood among the piles of discarded belongings, I started thinking about the idea of portraiture, the strong compositional relationships going on within Whistler’s painting, and the evocative nature of unassuming details. I wanted to create something influenced by the painting, but I wasn’t sure what. There seemed to be an abundance of garage sales that weekend, because shortly after, I found a leopard coat and hat, a 1950s cat painting, and what looked like the exact chair from Whistler’s painting. I knew I was on to something.

    I decided to explore Whistler’s painting through humor and the connections between the wardrobe and the props. I also looked at this series as a way to utilize all the things I loved doing: spending time with my proper, yet hilarious mother, going to garage sales and swap meets, searching eBay, styling sets, taking photographs, and painting. My mother was a willing model, but could not understand why anyone would be interested seeing her dressed up as Elvis or wearing a bathing suit. Arrangement in Green and Black incorporates traditional photography techniques, yet becomes richer with the treatment of hand painting. It is my intent to have the viewer see the work in a historical context with the addition of color, and at the same time, experience Whistler’s simple, yet brilliant formula for the composition.

    The series took two years to complete photography, and then another 6 months to paint the images. My patient 85-year-old mother posed in over 20 ensembles, but unfortunately passed away before seeing the finished series. I am grateful for her sense of humor and the time this series allowed us to be together. In retrospect, I would never have imagined that this series, photographed against my garage and made up of garage sale props, would be exhibited and published all over the world. A fact that I’m sure would have delighted and amazed my mother.

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