About the ARS LONGA Drawings / Paintings

The figure drawings are inspired by old masters: François Boucher (ARS), Hendrik Goltzius (RSL), Guerino (SLO), Matisse (LON), Boucher (ONG), Saerdam (NGA), Rembrandt (GAA) and Anibale Carracci (AAR), and are superimposed with images from city planning and/or the built environment. The names of the paintings are derived from 3-letter permutations from the phrase "ars longa" (art is/lives long/forever). Of the eight paintings, five are in private collections.

 

About the Vesalius-inspired VITA BREVIS Paintings and Print•Drawings

 

 

The torsos of these ten paintings are direct appropriations from De Humani Corporis Fabrica, (Books IV and VI) of Andreas Vesalius.[1] Generally considered one of the most noble and magnificent accomplishments in both the history of science and the history of art, the work was envisioned and created by Belgian anatomist, Vesalius (1514-1564). Born December 31, 1514, I celebrated the 500th anniversary of Vesalius’s birth throughout 2015.


 

Published in Basel in 1543, De Humani Corporis Fabrica marked the birth of observational science. To garner the widest possible attention to his ground-breaking work, Vesalius engaged the best European artists available to prepare the woodblock (and copper) engravings for his massive, elegant, and detailed magnum opus. The only artist identified by name, however, was Jan Stephan van Kalcar (1499-1546/50), also from Belgium.

 

THESE TEN PAINTINGS LONG FOR A
A PERMANENT HOME IN AN ANATOMY DEPARTMENT
OR HOSPITAL CONTEXT.

 

Read further, or click on this link

 

Inspiration • Background

As a member (1993–2003) of the multi-cultural exhibiting collective, Tabula Rasa, we decided to create a body of work addressing the theme: OBSURE CITIES. Drawing upon my own years of painting the human figure, I chose to explore the encounter / juxtaposition / infusion / suffusion of the figure with urban artefacts [2].

 

The city brings together people who are different, it intensifies the complexity of social life, it presents people to each other as strangers . . . It can serve as a home for those who have accepted themselves as exiles from the Garden.

—Richard Sennett
Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization
(1994 Norton)

 

I focused on the human–urban interaction by appropriating figurative images from master artists and juxtaposing them with representations of cities by city planners, architects, cartographers and others. My response to the inherent obscurantism of cities resides in the metaphors provided via my execution and combinations as they evolved from imagination, circumstance, and procedures of creativity.

Poets also inspired me:

 

The City’s voice itself is soft like Solitude’s.

                                                      —Percy Bysshe Shelley

 

The city is built

To music, therefore never built at all,

And therefore built forever.

                                                 —Alfred Tennyson

 

Urbanism courses through my veins. I was born in Manhattan, New York, for four years worked in city planning and urban renewal in New Haven, lived and worked in Philadelphia (Center City and Germantown) 1972–2017, and currently live in Seattle. I am therefore more than an urbanite, one who lives in the city. I am an urbanist, one who lives for the city, and is of the city.

 

As a theme within the Obscure Cities theme for Tabula Rasa, I chose the adage, ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS. — Art is long, life brief. I quickly set about creating the ARS LONGA series of eight paintings by appropriating master drawings of the human figure and juxtaposing them with historic city maps and plans.

 

I was still pondering how to respond to VITA BREVIS when I attended a conference in Deventer, Holland, in May, 1996. My lodging happened to be on Johannes van Calcar Straat, a name I recognized because, since 1956, I had owned and pored over a Dover Edition (1950) of The Illustrations from the works of Andreas Vesalius of Brussels. Suddenly I had inspiration for at least part of my imagery: the torsos of Vesalius.

 

While at the conference, I thought of placing the torsos in a contemporaneous urban context, so I went to Bruges, Belgium, known for its 16th century architecture. It was so unseasonably raw and cold, that drawing time-consuming urban-scapes proved untenable. To compromise, I drew a variety of doors could be accomplished more briefly. Only when I returned home did I think to replace the entrails of Vesalius’s torsos with the doors, and situate the torsos in variously-colored, nebulous earth-sea-sky-scapes.

 

The titles of both sets of paintings are derived from 3- and 4-letter permutations of the phrases, ARS LONGA and VITA BREVIS respectively.

 

[1] An original copy of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, and an English version, may be viewed, by appointment, at the Mütter Museum, 19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, (215) 563-3737.

[2] Artful artifacts.