Homage to Titian & Manet
Knitted Together is a personal project that I began this year. This is Part III: Kieran
I strive for my work to celebrate the human experience. Empathy is always a key component, which is sometimes achieved by including the viewer as a part of the installation.
Knitted Together is a collection of portraits of people darning red garments from wool. Each portrait is printed on canvas and framed. In each, a strand of red yarn leaves the frame and leads back to one shared central ball of yarn.
In each portrait, the red garment is at a different stage of progress. One wraps a person’s neck. One is held in front and trails down the subject’s leg. Each grants insight to an aspect of the subject’s life, including love, loss, birthing, caregiving, sexuality, or outlook: sometimes guarded, or sometimes on display.
This body of work will grow, with new portraits being added. It is about individuals, humanity, and connections. We are distinct, but we exist together.
This portrait of Kieran began with the seed of an idea. Kieran and I were chatting and she jokingly said that she needed a “fainting couch.” I wondered how the term came about, so I searched online. I discovered that Victorian women, who often fainted from wearing tight corsets, often had this style of sofa in their homes in order to recover.
An online photo of a fainting couch reminded me of Edouard Manet’s painting, Olympia, which he completed in 1863, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino, completed around 1532.
Kieran loved the idea of a portrait of her for Knitted Together as a homage to Titian and Manet. She’s an artist and an actress and she loves art and art history.
Manet’s painting was clearly a nod to Titian’s. I made lots of comparisons between the two paintings, and noted the artists’ choices of body language (submissive vs. confident), composition, color, pattern, texture, and symbolism. Their use of animals each had a different intent as well.
In Venus of Urbino, the dog is meant to suggest loyalty and domesticity. The fact that it is sleeping suggest passivity. On the other hand, the cat in Olympia is meant to suggest mystery and rebelliousness. It’s placed in the shadows and it stares at the viewer, hinting at witches’ cats and darkness.
For my portrait of Kieran, I wanted a similar composition, along with harmonious colors, patterns, texture, and an animal. Kieran’s personality is neither a domestic, submissive dog nor a witchy cat. It’s something more like a chicken, which is domestic, yet definitely does its own thing!
Because I used to have chickens, I know that each breed has a certain personality. I wanted to find a Rhode Island Red. They are not only the perfect personality – friendly and curious, but a great color for our portrait. Our wonderful friends, the Freckers, happen to have one and let us borrow her.
My assistant, Cambria, used to judge chickens at fairs. She swiftly and gently caught the chicken. We gave the chicken lots of meal worms, and she seemed to enjoy the photo session!
You can read Parts I and II of Knitted Together HERE