Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Optimist

I am somewhat obsessed with images of St. Sebastian. It is not that I particularly care about Sebastian himself, but am interested in the sense of internal conflict contained in his body.
To me there is no beauty like that of the human figure in turmoil, and no image with more lasting universality. To me, every male torso should have a protruding ribcage, and half of them should be shot up with arrows.

I began this painting undecided whether I wanted modern arrows or something more traditional. Since my experience with arrows is more from old paintings than anything else I went with the latter. My six-year-old daughter gave me a feather from a red-tailed hawk that she found in our backyard. I found instructions online on how to make primitive arrows, and made the butt-end of an arrow out of a brush handle.

Many of my favorite paintings are images of Sebastian. Here are two of my favorites, which both happen to be by Guido Reni. Traditionally, Sebastian is tied to a post. The raised arms in my painting are meant to suggest this motion, but in a way that might be seen in normal life.
The bluish nocturnes in the background also bears some similarities.

I find a similar pathos in Michelangelo's dying slaves, and this is probably where I got the idea of the white t-shirt. There is of course no greater master of struggle in the human form than Michelangelo.


Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

'To me, every male torso should have a protruding ribcage, and half of them should be shot up with arrows.' Wow. That's going in the favourite quotes list. I really identify with the 'feel' of that sentiment.

Nice post, Steve. I also love the phrase 'bluish nocturne'. Your painting evokes more for me than those you cited - no doubt simply because I'm not attuned to painting itself nor the history of painting like you are. Or rather, I'm not attuned to them at all probably.

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