|Issue 1:||January 2020|
|Visual Arts||+ Artist’s|
—One of two winners of an Editor’s Choice Award for this issue of MacQ
It’s a challenge to take on a piece this large, life size with natural clay. The material has a mind of its own. So did Modigliani.
The clay I use is Chinle Clay, 212-215 million years old. I harvest a couple hundred pounds from the desert, and start sifting until it’s a fine powder. Then I mix a batch with water...the clay cells expand 80 times when wet. This clay has a high content of bentonite and calcium salt so it’s not suited for pottery making. The bentonite makes it crack, which I want. I apply the wet clay to a heavy duty canvas that I assemble. The stretcher frame is made of 2x2-inch boards, and a heavy grade canvas is stretched over that. I shape the clay to the form that I want...adding and subtracting if necessary. As it dries, it starts to crack...there is no control over this.
This piece took about two weeks to cure. The white area around the figure is spackling compound...a lot lighter and does not crack...gives a nice wavy pattern. After the clay dries, I apply a fortified interior acrylic paint...deep black...gives the shadows in the cracks. I let the the piece dry, then turn it upside down and add another coat. The paint acts like a glue but also seals the clay and allows the calcium salt to harden, so the finished piece has a fired ceramic quality.
This is the first figurative piece I did...had no idea how it would turn out. I applied many layers of luminescent and duo-chrome acrylic paint over the black using a dry-brush technique... Straight from the tube, no dilution. The palette board is the canvas itself. These colors are not on the color wheel, so the blending takes place on the canvas.......I wanted the piece to have some of the sensuous qualities of the original so I chose these colors.
I have been a fan of Modigliani for years. He distorted the body, particularly the neck and hips, but not to the extreme of Picasso. Modigliani’s work is far more sensuous....eye candy...without going to the grotesque extreme that Picasso was exploring at the same time. Like many artists, he lived a hard life but you can see the gentleness of his soul in these works.......
—J.R. Lancaster (in correspondence with MacQ publisher, Clare MacQueen, on 17 and 18 November 2019); commentary appears here with artist’s permission
1. Lancaster’s painting above was posted to his Facebook gallery on 17 November 2019, and is reproduced here with his permission.
2. Original painting by Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) resides in a private collection; reproduction above was downloaded from The Athenaeum:
3. A dozen of Modigliani’s reclining nudes can also be viewed at The Athenaeum, via this link (scroll to “Rs” near bottom of page):
(Both links above were retrieved on 24 December 2019.)
Former chemical engineer (1970s) and now a self-described “paint slinger, photographer, sculptor, builder of labyrinths and solstice effigies, storyteller, percussionist, and desert rat,” Lancaster is based in Bluff, Utah and Dove Creek, Colorado. He uses found objects from nature in his art, including artifacts and natural clays on canvas. His paintings and metal sculptures reside in more than 70 installations throughout the United States.
J.R. Lancaster’s Facebook page (to access, viewers need to sign in to FB)
⚡86 Paintings and Counting: Artist JR Lancaster’s Bears Ears Series by Zak Podmore in Canyon Echo, a journal of Southeastern Utah (6 April 2019)
⚡ Two Photographs, plus artist’s notes and comment (“On Pre-Visualization”), in KYSO Flash (Issue 6, Fall 2016)
⚡ Conveying a sense of place, article by Gail Binkly in Four Corners Free Press (November 2008) which includes a phone interview with Lancaster
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