Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Distilling the Subtle Potential of a Moment in Time

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Distilling the Subtle Potential of a Moment in Time

Article excerpt

THE paintings of Beth Weissman have the exact and perfectly worked verisimilitude we tend to associate with photorealism. Though Weissman does in fact work from photographs taken of a subject, to label her work strict photorealism is a misnomer and would not do adequate justice to the emotional and creative scope of the work.

Camera in hand, equipped with the eye of the painter and the heart of the poet, Weissman canvases the world around her. Whether by its striking formal features - the light and dark patterning that carries our eye into the lonely life of the female diner in "L.A. or by its strange emotional valence - the tired anticipation in the eyes of the old potbellied man in "Pillars a scene will grab Weissman's imagination. She then takes several always clandestine photos of her subject ("If I am seen and the subject's ego is engaged, I nearly always discard the photo and scratch the idea; I'm after only the spontaneous emotional instant," says Weissman). The resulting painting has as its impetus the moment that Weissman froze in time with her lens, but it has at its core the creative and symbolic selections that Weissman makes along the way ... the things she leaves out, the things she adds or exaggerates, every nuance she selectively and skillfully weaves into these handsomely executed paintings such that the utterly common becomes filled with open-ended portent.

It is in the translation from observed reality to canvas that Weissman changes an exact copy of nature into her personal picture of the world, a distillation of the subtle potentialities any moment holds; the unspoken message in the gaze, the hint of body language, the hidden longing and isolation we all try to hide. In "Chess," for instance, she spied two older men playing chess, but she did not give us a mere reportorial snapshot. She made the painting a diptych so that each old man in intense concentration inhabits his own insular canvas. …

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