My ballerina models visit the painting-in-progress
If you’ve been following my Creative Pinellas blog posts, you will know that by now I have completed the first pass of the large Not #MeToo: No More Casting Couch painting with a layer of acrylic paint and have set up the stretched piece in my living room. It’s time to improve the details!
Our bar stool is coming in handy for painting things that are a little higher up in the painting. Just like when I began this piece, I start with Alexandra’s head when I add the next layer of paint. You can see some of the source photos I took taped to the canvas, so I can be sure that I capture her likeness well. Alexandra is a native of Russia, where she studied with the Russian Ballet. Her father is American, and she moved to the United States a few years ago. She has been working on her associate’s degree from St. Petersburg College, where my wife and I teach. She plans to continue her education at the University of South Florida (USF) to study International Relations in fall 2018.
Since I teach studio art during the day, I have to do most of my painting at night. The spot light and industrial-strength halogen lights provide my lighting during these sessions. But in order for me to be able to avoid more glare, I’m sporting this baseball cap inside while I’m painting. I am also wearing my wife’s paisley reading glasses, which are stronger than my regular prescription, for the detail work. I am definitely not a fashion plate while working: besides that, my outfit typically consists of sweat pants and a black T-shirt. Notice that our little rescue dog Carmichael has once again managed to sneak into the photo! He is checking out what I’m doing. Neither he nor Bella have peed on the painting, so I guess they like it. : )
Look who is visiting! Madeline and Alexandra came to see the painting as it looks so far. Madeline purposely dressed in the same leotard so I can get a few more shots of her hand, since my original photos were not as sharp as I would have liked. Madeline is currently studying art history at USF when she is not teaching ballet or working in a ballet store in Tampa.
These two lovely young ladies, straight from ballet class, have come to pose with the painting featuring their likenesses. They are best friends and are beautiful, inside and out! They seem pretty excited to be in this painting, while I am grateful that I have such exquisite models. I want the ballerina aspect of the work to evoke the paintings of Degas, particularly since that Impressionist also addressed the idea of using a kind of casting couch in pieces like The Star.
In The Star, or L’Étoile, by Edgar Degas, he shows a male patron lurking in the background while the prima ballerina is on stage. In the late 1800s, when the above painting was done, it was apparently common that a promising ballerina had to rely on a wealthy patron to advance her career in exchange for sexual favors.*
I want my painting to draw a connection between contemporary Hollywood actresses and the kind of “casting couch” notion that goes back at least to the 1870s/1880s in Paris. I like that art connoisseurs can see the link between the historical practices and those in contemporary American society. I also think that it is important that not only women, but also men speak up in favor of the #MeToo movement to show that things need to change. With Not #MeToo, I am trying to do my bit to participate in this conversation.
Tune back in next week to see what is happening with the work! Thanks for reading,
To see my entire portfolio of paintings, please check out www.kevingrass.art! You can purchase original paintings and fine art print reproductions directly from my website.
* See more about Degas’ painting L’Étoile and its meaning here: The Star painting by Edgar Degas
Blog post 12 of 22