In the middle of June a lady stopped by the DAF to look at some art. Now, this wasn’t unprecedented: we are a gallery, and we love giving people a view of what we have on display and in our collection. However, what was so special about this encounter is that she was looking for a particular painting that Stan Burnside painted of her many years ago.
“I can’t remember the name,” she said. We looked through photographs of Burnside’s paintings that we have in the DAF collection (23 in total), slowing down on the faces of each portrait until she found her own: entitled Saintly, a small piece delicately rendered more than a decade ago. The lady gushes over the name: “Saintly! Ha!” then she said: “I have to call Stan – “ and off she went, chatting and laughing with him on the phone, thanking him for capturing her face, forever, in oil paint. You can see the kindness and familiarity within the piece: the softness of the eyes and slight curve of the mouth, as if the woman in the painting is sharing a light joke with the viewer, or, with Stan as he painted her. Or maybe it was from memory and Stan looked to capture this softness that he knew her for and share it with us. Whatever the case, the picture is intimate, familiar, and so full of love.
When I was in grad school I had an advisor who often said that you can tell when the artist enjoyed the work that they are making. This is certainly true for Saintly, and all the works we chose for You Gotta See What it is Yer Lookin. With this show, Tessa and I considered what it is that we love about art and art making: its power to connect with people; to capture humanity; to help us how to remember to love:ourselves, and the people that is captured in our work. So we peeled through the DAF collection to find works that we know were inspired by people (and places) that the artist knew. These works are filled with the closeness and love that can only be captured when working with things that are familiar. It is filled with the enjoyment that my advisor talked to me about, often.
I hope you are able to witness this closeness, and enjoy visiting You Gotta See What it is Yer Lookin as much as we enjoyed putting it together.