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Nicole Bigar

Quack by Nicole Bigar
"Quack" by Nicole Bigar
What are we to make of Nicole Bigar’s rather dramatic sculpture of a horse? It is certainly unexpected in her oeuvre, which is largely devoted to painting. But Bigar’s horse concentrates in its body all the energy and elegance--demonic power and suave complexity--made abstractly visible in her paintings. The sculpture does in fact have an oddly abstract expressionist fluency, as its animal curves indicate. The two raised legs form a kind of angular foil to the tense graciousness of the curved back, so reminiscent of the tomb horse figurines of T’ang dynasty China (seventh to ninth centuries).

Indeed, there is an Asiatic cast to Bigar’s horse, as she says, acknowledging her numerous trips to that continent. Bigar’s monumental horse is a kind of signature piece, all the more so because it signals her breakthrough into a new sculptural painting and her enduring commitment to the timelessly exotic figure. In traditional Chinese art the horse embodied the “inner vitality” that Chinese theorists thought was the mark of artistic quality. Bigar’s horse has this inner vitality, and so do the figures--mostly female--in her new relief paintings.

Most of these figures are made of sand--the same earth to which the horse is close. Some of it is dark, some of it white; all of it was found on the beaches of the Hamptons where Bigar lives. Some of it is applied directly to the canvas, forming an eccentric, oddly automatist surface--I am thinking of the first inspired sand paintings made by the Surrealist André Masson in the mid-twenties, and of the great importance the Surrealists gave to texture and touch (think of Max Ernst’s frottage technique)--and some of it is attached to cloth, for example, burlap, and plastered to the canvas. It is at once a collage device and pure surface, simultaneously raw and refined. Perhaps most importantly, at least for me, Bigar uses it to make her primitive, elemental females, all exotic emblems of the eternal feminine, as Goethe called the force that leads us onwards and upwards. But of course mud figures will crumble into dust--thus the dust to dust of death that completes the life cycle. Bigar’s earth material confirms the earthiness of her female figures, but it also announces their vulnerability.

The paradoxical meaningfulness of Bigar’s medium informs her figures as much as it lends them their savage grace. They convey tenderness as well as intensity. One cannot help recalling Gauguin’s description of himself as a “civilized savage,” and more broadly the idea of the “noble savage,” when looking at Bigar’s earth-bound females (Mother Earth is unavoidably evoked), but one also has to acknowledge their mirage-like transience. They are, after all, fantasy figures symbolizing a female ideal that has gone out of fashion in Western society, where woman has been liberated from the myth of sacred womanliness--she is naturally sacred by reason of her power to give birth--that informed traditional thinking of her, as evinced by her use as an allegorical personification of the virtues and arts. Like Bigar’s horse, her organic female figures signify the ego strength that expresses itself as joie de vivre, but joie de vivre is an exotic emotional phenomenon in our technological society. Thus the figures are emblematic of a forgotten optimism, as their sometimes fragmented character suggests. They epitomize a spirituality that has become exotic in our brutally materialistic world even as their fragmentary character hints at its violence.

I think Bigar is fleeing from that society--and defying the machine--when she celebrates the Buddha, as she does in several sculptured earth and colorful paintings. She is looking for enlightenment and life-affirmation, and she finds them in an Asian society remote from ours--a society which, however rapidly it is modernizing, retains spiritual values that ours seems to be losing, or dismisses as besides the point of techno-materialistic progress. In a sense, Bigar is a female Praxiteles recreating a spiritual ideal--for that is what her females embody--that seems to have succumbed to modern reality. Thus it is only a half-truth to think of Bigar’s females as primitive, however primitive the figures in Mother and Child, Ancient Presence, Om, Meditation, and Peace (all 2005), not only by reason of their material but their form. Their primitive “naturalness” signals their archetypal character. Similarly, however much Bigar’s images, whether sculptural or entirely painted--she has said that she once wanted to be a sculptor as well as a painter--seem to have been made by a child, this signals their innocence and expressive directness.
There is nothing arch about Bigar’s images and methods--a virtue these clever, cynical postmodern days.

The Sun Came Out, a 2005 work declares, and spreads its light on all creation, confirming its sacred character, as the pointed arch in Bigar’s picture suggests. We must live in the Here and Now where inner and outer light are inseparable--which is what the Buddha teaches in this 2004 work.
There is the courage of light--a sign of inner vitality as well as the vitality of the universe--everywhere in Bigar’s works. It informs her blazing colors, and she often lets it shine on its own: the canvas becomes a field of light on which the figures float, even as they stand on their own. There is a quixotic speed to Bigar’s handling, conveying the instantaneousness with which light travels and the spontaneity of creativity.

Indeed, in the last analysis Bigar’s works, for all their celebration of meditation and femininity--their not so subliminal eroticism and strong occult import (her mud figures are, after all, voluptuously rounded and fleshy, and inherently mysterious)--are about keeping creativity alive, and with that achieving happiness. Jung has argued that when life becomes meaninglessness the only thing that can save it is creativity. The shadow of meaninglessness does not fall anywhere in Bigar’s works--it is striking that there are virtually no shadows in her pictures, only radiant atmosphere--because they are alive with creative energy, which is the real secret of the inner vitality the Asian masters cherished.
Canvas Printing

Printing on canvas is incredibly versatile and a great way to create a ready-to-hang image or artwork. Every canvas that we print  is protected with a UV coated acrylic finish to guard the print from dust, moisture and fading. Do you want your canvas stretched on bars or non-stretched? Framed or unframed? Customize the work to make it truly your own.

Art Prints – How are they made?

Photography by Laurie Barone-Shafer
Nowadays just about anyone can take a good quality photographs with a digital camera. Or take a few hundred pictures and the chances are few will be good, and even one or two outstanding.

Here are a few tips, tricks and techniques on how to make art print poster ready photographs and print ready digital files. Don’t get overwhelmed, there is a lot of information here, but a lot of it is just intuitive. Well, a bit of patience will always help.

First thing – Photo Size

If you taking a digital photo of you family or friend the largest size you would print is usually 5 by 7 inches, maybe 8 by 10 at the most. Even small size digital photographs (2MB or less) are ‘good enough’ to create a decent print. But if you want to create prints that are 16 by 20, 20 by 24 inches or larger you need more pixels (in pixels 20 by 24 inches photo is actually about 40 times larger than 3 by 4 inches photo assuming they have the same resolution).

Learning to Paint Watercolors

Watercolor is an easy, fun medium for creating art.  Color theory, composition and design can be explored freely with watercolor paint, paper, and brushes.  Several techniques may be used with watercolors for varying effects including painting wet on wet, wet on dry, layering washes, and more.

Watercolor paper comes in cold press, hot press, and rough.  Rough paper has the most texture, and its hills and valleys can result in interesting effects when paint is added.  Hot press is the smoothest and has the finest texture.  Cold press has a moderate amount of texture and is the paper most commonly chosen by watercolor artists.

Watercolor paper comes in several weights ranging from 90 lb. to 300 lb. based on the pounds per ream of paper.  Most artists prefer to use at least 140 lb. paper.  Papers vary somewhat between manufacturers, so sampling different papers is advisable.  Paper can be purchased in pads, in blocks or in large sheets.  The large sheets are usually the most economical and can be torn into whatever size is desired.

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