The Renaissance of Figurative Painting: A Glimpse into Grace Weaver’s Artistic Journey
In the bustling art scene of New York City, there is currently a renaissance of figurative painting taking place. A new wave of talented fine artists under the age of 30 are emerging, bringing fresh perspectives and invigorating techniques to the canvas. Brooklyn-based painter Grace Weaver is among these rising stars, captivating audiences with her solo exhibition at Soy CapitÃ¡n Gallery in Berlin in 2017. Her works offer a discerning glimpse into 21st-century life while staying true to the essence of classic American painting. As she prepares for her highly anticipated breakout exhibition at James Cohan Gallery in NYC this fall, we had the opportunity to visit Grace in her Brooklyn studio, witness her practice firsthand, and delve into her artistic journey.
From Wildlife Biology to Art
Grace’s artistic journey took an unexpected turn, as she initially pursued a degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Vermont. Drawn to the idea of conducting research and undertaking a personal endeavor, she saw herself becoming a naturalist or researcher. However, everything changed when she enrolled in an introductory painting class during her second year. Taught by a young and brilliant professor named Steve Budington, this class introduced Grace to the world of contemporary art, which was entirely new and exciting to her. A documentary about Walton Ford, a painter who collected source materials from museum archives, sparked Grace’s realization that art could be a deeply personal research project. The combination of intellectual rigor and universal accessibility found in art mesmerized her, ultimately leading her to choose a career as an artist.
Influences and Color Explorations
Like many artists, Grace found inspiration in the works of early 20th-century European painters when she first began exploring color in her paintings. Icons such as Matisse, Bonnard, and Vuillard served as her mentors in solving color-related challenges. Their masterful use of color reached heights that continue to inspire Grace. However, she has recently expanded her color palette, seeking inspiration not only from the art world but also from everyday life. She finds fascination in the specific color combinations used by individuals, such as when someone with a noticeable spray-tan pairs it with a pale, baby-pink lipstick. These unique color choices reflect the temporal specificity of the 21st century, offering a glimpse into the current cultural moment. Grace acknowledges the power of color to convey meaning and connect with both the past and present.
Currently, pink holds a special allure for Grace. She is particularly drawn to medium pink shades, and artificial colors have a captivating quality for her. Variations of red, orange, and pink appeal to Grace due to their proximity to flesh tones. By incorporating these warm colors into her paintings, she creates a metaphorical warmth that makes her work accessible and inviting to viewers.
Finding Inspiration in Different Eras of Art
While Grace finds inspiration in various artistic movements throughout history, a few eras stand out for her. Mannerism, with its abandonment of strict anatomy, captivates Grace with its whimsical charm. The Rococo period intrigues her with its perversely cute aesthetic. Indian and Persian miniatures fascinate her with their calligraphic lines and idiosyncratic use of color. More recently, Grace has become obsessed with Kalighat paintings, folk art from Bengal, India, known for their elegant brushwork and surface-focused compositions. In the realm of contemporary art, Grace admires the Chicago Imagists and considers Christina Ramberg’s distinctive mark-making techniques particularly inspiring. However, the artist who has had the most profound influence on Grace is Alex Katz. Katz’s emphasis on brushwork and stylization, with the figure sometimes playing a secondary role, resonates deeply with Grace’s artistic aspirations.
As an artist, Grace recognizes the inherent connection between her work and the rich history of painting. While she avoids becoming a mere imitation of past artists, Grace acknowledges that each stroke of a paintbrush links her to the centuries of painters who came before her. She believes that painting’s true struggle lies in finding ways to speak to the present moment using a medium that has existed for centuries. Her goal is to strike a balance between the past and the contemporary, synthesizing elements from both worlds to create something entirely new and relevant. This challenge is at the forefront of her artistic practice, a notion she reflects on daily.
Grace’s works often feature female figures, which serve as emotional self-portraits rather than literal representations. While these figures may be stand-ins for the artist herself, they are also vessels for exploring complex psychological themes. Other characters in her paintings are imagined, with male figures often created as foils to their female counterparts. These characters represent various archetypes rather than specific individuals, with recurring types such as the absent-minded boyfriend or the eye-rolling sister. Grace focuses on the relationships between these characters, elevating their dynamics to the forefront of her work.
Pursuing a Larger Vision
Grace’s artistry flourishes on large canvases that allow her to embrace gesture and dramatic brushstrokes. Working on a grand scale grants her the freedom to create bold shapes and capture the viewer’s attention. She aims to make an impact on a physical level by using size as a tool. The scale of her paintings mirrors her desire for them to be confrontational despite their polite subject matter and visually pleasing color palette. By immersing viewers in larger-than-life works, Grace aims to establish a direct and memorable connection.
The Painter’s Perspective
Grace approaches painting with the mindset of creating something for her fellow painters. She finds inspiration in other artists’ work and appreciates the details that are often noticed by those familiar with the craft. Trudy Benson, Katherine Bernhardt, and Patricia Treib are among the painters who generously reveal painterly information in their works, allowing viewers to appreciate the process behind them. Grace sees the act of painting as a continuous learning experience, where one strives for improvement, often considering the works of other artists and their minutiae. Her art historical studies at the University of Vermont shaped her keen eye for detail, honing her ability to identify an artist’s unique touch within a painting. This emphasis on close observation contributes to Grace’s own artistic pleasure and fuels her desire to create works that provoke a similar response.
The Evolution of a Painting
One notable aspect of Grace’s artistic process is the extensive evolution each painting undergoes. Examining her documentation of various works, it becomes evident that characters, actions, and movements within a painting can shift and transform dramatically. In the early stages, Grace focuses on composition, often working with a limited color palette. She approaches the canvas like an abstract painter, piecing together shapes and forms until they harmonize. Facial expressions, clothing, and relationships between figures emerge later, organically evolving as the painting progresses. Grace enjoys the element of surprise when figures appear unexpectedly, allowing her mind to remain immersed in color and form rather than preconceived ideas.
Embracing Inner Dialogues and Self-Care
Grace’s recent works reflect her fascination with intimate, mundane acts of self-care. Whether it’s applying makeup, preparing a sandwich, or washing one’s face, these daily rituals hold vulnerability and precariousness. These seemingly banal acts of self-improvement and reinvention resonate with Grace, paralleling the act of painting itself, which relentlessly strives for beauty and self-reflection. By capturing these moments, her paintings weave together the personal and the universal, offering viewers a chance to connect with their own self-care practices and journeys of self-discovery.
An Exciting Homecoming
Grace’s upcoming solo show, BEST LIFE, marks a significant moment in her artistic career. It will be her first solo exhibition at James Cohan Gallery in NYC, a noteworthy milestone. Collaborating with the exceptionally talented team at James Cohan Gallery fills Grace with gratitude and excitement. She feels fortunate to showcase her work alongside brilliant minds and kind souls in the esteemed New York art community. The thriving art scene in the city is a source of inspiration and motivation for Grace. While solo exhibitions can be nerve-wracking, she wholeheartedly embraces the opportunity to be part of the vibrant art scene and share her artistic vision with a broader audience.
Grace Weaver’s artistic journey embodies the renaissance of figurative painting in New York City. With influences ranging from classic European painters to contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of the medium, Grace has carved a unique path in the art world. Her exploration of color, deep connection to art history, and commitment to capturing intimate moments in daily life make her a captivating artist. As she prepares for her upcoming exhibition at James Cohan Gallery, Grace’s work continues to evolve and captivate viewers, striking a harmonious balance between the past, present, and future of painting.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What led Grace Weaver to transition from studying Wildlife Biology to pursuing a career in art?
Grace Weaver’s journey from Wildlife Biology to art was influenced by her desire for a personal research project and her exposure to contemporary art during an introductory painting class in college. The realization that art offered a platform for a highly personalized research endeavor, where the end-product could be accessible to a wide audience, sparked her interest and passion for painting.
2. How does Grace Weaver find inspiration for her unique color choices?
Grace draws inspiration for her color choices from various sources, including early 20th-century European painting. Artists like Matisse, Bonnard, and Vuillard have a profound influence on her understanding and exploration of color. However, Grace also finds inspiration in everyday life, particularly in color combinations found in contemporary culture. She is fascinated by how specific colors, such as those used by individuals with spray tans or the popular “millennial pink,” can convey meaning and reflect the cultural zeitgeist.
3. Which artistic periods and artists resonate with Grace Weaver’s work?
While Grace finds inspiration in various artistic periods, she particularly admires Mannerism for its abandonment of anatomy, Rococo for its provocative charm, and Indian and Persian miniatures for their calligraphic lines and unique color palettes. Among contemporary artists, Grace holds a special admiration for Christina Ramberg’s mark-making techniques and considers Alex Katz her painting hero, continually chasing the ideal he embodies.
4. How does Grace Weaver incorporate personal experiences and relationships into her work?
Grace’s artwork often includes figures that serve as emotional self-portraits on a psychological level rather than literal representations. These figures are stand-ins for her and enable her to explore complex emotions and relationships. Additionally, other characters in her paintings are invented and serve as foils to the primary female figures. The relationships between these characters, rather than their individual identities, take center stage in Grace’s work.
5. Why does Grace Weaver prefer working on larger canvases?
Working on larger canvases allows Grace to fully embrace gesture and dramatic brushstrokes. The scale of her paintings allows for bold shapes and captivating compositions. She considers scale an essential tool to make her work confrontational and impactful, despite the often polite subject matter and pleasing color palette. By immersing viewers in larger-than-life works, Grace creates a direct and memorable connection, inviting audiences into her artistic world.