A lot of galleries criticized Andrew Wyeth's work. At one point in his life, he was creating art at the time of Warhol, Pollack, and other artists whose work was far more "subversive" than his own. His work seemed simple, he painted things around his town, small details like a pair of work boots left in the rain on a hill, his neighbors, his family. Once he waited weeks to paint curtains on a window till the wind blew them just right. That was the kind of artist he was, romantic, nostalgic, and detail oriented. Galleries and modern artists just couldn't understand what was so special about these things. But they also never bothered to ask and had they, maybe they would have understood why so many people were drawn to his work...it was the intimacy. The true, raw, intimacy and love he had for the people around him. He wanted to know them, truly know them, he loved them, so why wouldn't he? He wanted to document the small details of their lives that made a big impact on who they were as people, he wanted to trap these moments like a bug in amber. Working in the fields, sitting in their doorways. He was intrigued by his neighbors and painted Christina Olson the most, who was crippled but refused to become weakened by it. She would drag herself around the house, around her fields by her hands, and if you look closely in the painting "Christina's World" you can see the greys in her hair, her mangled legs, her weathered hands. Is she trying to escape or is she trying to get home? People assumed it was a painting of a young girl laying in the grass facing home. They didn't bother to look closely. In the end, Andrew requested to be buried in the Olson plot, next to Christina.
Ever since I got my first Andrew Wyeth book on the Helga paintings, I have been deeply drawn to his work. All the artists I have loved since him have all possessed this nostalgic, intimate quality, and focused on details. I haven't always known how to link my need to tell a story with my work in our current times, where it seems like our attention span is too short for things like details. I post to Instagram, I delete in frustration, I can't post the whole story because not every photo is meant to be alone on its own. But shoots like this one make my heart sing and are exactly the kinds of stories I want to tell.
This day was really special. The original idea of the shoot was inspired by Andrew Wyeth. On the train to our location, I spoke to our model about it. She is from Ukraine, but has family from everywhere and is of Jewish origins. She told me that during WWII, her family was forced to flee the Nazis, and ended up scattered around Europe. Her Grandmother sang her songs about the war, which I asked her to sing on the shoot and draw upon those memories that must be inside her, even if she never lived it herself. And she did. Even though it rained and some of the locations were closed, she went along with everything, entrenched in the story, singing her heart out in deep, beautiful Russian (she has an amazing voice!), running through the mud, never complaining once. We all felt it and even though the day was difficult, the pictures speak for themselves..