Go Figure

Marcy Lansman

Many of these paintings express my nostalgia for a kind of childhood play that seems rare today, nostalgia for a time when children ran around outdoors uncoached and unscheduled. I’m intrigued by the excitement and collaboration that emerges from that kind of play. Below is a painting of one young boy pouring water on another. I love the combination of concentration and curiosity on the pourer’s face

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This and several other paintings are based on fifty-year old photos of my sons. I’ve solicited candid photos from friends and family, but often what I get back are smiling faces looking straight into the camera. So I’ve taken to lurking around public playgrounds with my camera, concerned that some parent will suspect I’m up to no good. My friends assure me that at my age I don’t need to worry, but I keep a “bio-card” in my pocket just to prove I’m a legitimate artist.

For the painting below, I photographed a group of girls cooking up a witches brew of moss and leaves at the bottom of a slide. (I’ve transformed the slide into a kettle.) No one was urging them on or encouraging them to be creative. I watched them for fifteen minutes charmed by their obliviousness and intensity.

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Many of my paintings are labeled “ mixed media” because of a technique I use to create the surface. I put down layers of various kinds of rice paper and gesso, producing a random pattern. Then I use layers of watery acrylic paint to create the image. Since paper and gesso take the paint differently, the surface varies in texture and color. This technique is one way of avoiding the “plasticky” look of acrylic paint, making acrylic paint look a little like watercolor.

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