Looking at work online or in reproductions encourages an intellectual enjoyment of art. It often prefers, accepts or processes the conceptual aspect of a work. Accompanying text often directs us to the back-story. Visually, it smoothes the rough surfaces.
A few months ago I saw a young woman on her way home from having hair and makeup done for her wedding. Her makeup was heavy and strange and her hair was stiff and moulded. After a bizarre moment, I realized it was for the benefit of the photographer and videographer. It reminded me of newscasters and the strange corpselike way they appear when you see them off-camera. The make-up was done for the wedding photographs and not for those present. The practice of looking at art in reproductions has encouraged an era of artists who on some level make work for electronic communication.
As we accustom ourselves to looking at artwork in electronic reproductions, our appreciation of qualities of presence, like luminosity for example, becomes slack. Naturally, other qualities emerge as eye-catching, or more accurately, mind-catching. Artists need to convince their viewers (or would-be viewers if we insist that one must be present to truly view a work) that their work is worth taking note of. So notes they write. These are the artists statements. There is no artist statement in this room. Zane Stucker does not try to lure you in with method or motive confessions. He presents you with this small and strange painting. That’s it.
Back to the qualities of an artwork. There is a pictorial intelligence and it is separate from language and its function in the mind. There is little to say about the small painting “Natalya”. I could write about it technically. The reminiscent use of glazes. The warm blues and cool reds— But that is not really what I am thinking about. There is little to say and yet when you stand in front of it, it invites you to look and to keep looking.
This painting is strange, its color, surface, form. It also makes me think of this strange thing we do, rendering faces in oiled-up pigments, manipulating the earth's elements. We compose, create. We want to be little gods, maybe. Or maybe it’s Natalya. In the painting a woman (or a girl?) seems to be walking into the depth of the space. But she has paused and is turning to look at us. The space suggested is vertical, possibly a cathedral. The vertical format also emphasizes the presence of the viewer, the one at whom she gazes. This gaze is a gift; I am sure of it. Maybe humans paint to be like little gods and maybe humans paint because we are human. We exult the gaze of a person, to return the gaze. We are here. I don’t know. But I like standing in front of this beautiful little painting. I like that it poses no solutions, makes no arguments, but ignites in my imagination tiny votive thoughts about enormous things.