"Sleeping Man" 15 x 17 inches, Oil on canvas, 2007
"Green Gourd" 12 x 12 inches, Oil on canvas, 2007
"Rotting Gourd" 11 x 11 inches, Oil on canvas, 2007
"Log Pile" 29 x 50 inches, Pastel on paper, 2004
"Tumbleweed" 42 x 52 inches, Oil on canvas, 2005
"Pipes" 20 x 38 inches, Oil on canvas
The artists I post here vary greatly when it comes to their professional status. A few are little more than enthusiastic hobbyists posting on free sites like Flickr. But some, like Ellen Altfest, have reached a fairly lofty position in the art world. She shows in New York (at Bellwether Gallery) and in London (at White Cube). Her 2007 show in London also saw the release of her first monograph, a catalogue of new and older work which can be purchased here. So I guess you can say she's made it. And deservedly so. Her work is realist, but her focus is so tight on the fine details that it's easy to see right through the subject matter and lose yourself in a world of abstraction. An earlier series of decaying objects; rotting gourds, rusty pipes, etc., seemed to suggest that this somehow mirrors the nature of reality, that all things eventually break down into their constituent parts, and if we observe closely enough we can see the entropy inherent in everything. Her figurative paintings are less about the human form than they are about the textures of skin and hair, wrinkles and folds, and veins lying just below the surface. Some of the paintings are of mere parts (a butt, a penis) and here her attention to detail is a challenge to the viewer to see past the shock value of the subject matter and examine almost clinically how paint can mirror the texture of flesh.
(I'm going to start posting my short essays at the bottom of the posts from now on. After all it's all about the art, not my thoughts, right?)