Michael Frank, writing for LUSH: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena
by Wendy Artin
“Life drawing this evening. Open to all.”
The sign flashed out from a bulletin board like a little beacon, calling to me, it seemed, across time: I had drawn a lot when I was younger. Here I was now a lifetime later, a visiting writer at the American Academy in Rome, buried in a big bulky project, away from home, away from the familiar. Why not go? I thought. So I went.
A more accurate sign might have read: “Danger, life drawing ahead.” Because you don’t just drop down on a stool next to Wendy Artin with your improvised pad and pencil, a pliable model across from you, and call what you are doing drawing when she is there, conjuring the human form – through some mysterious alchemy – out of positive and negative space, light and shadow, pigment and water.
I made my marks while she made her magic. Afterward we talked and soon discovered we had many things in common: food, history, a fascination with the ancient world, endlessly puzzling Italy. Rome of course. We began to wander through the streets of Trastevere and the wider city, we went running in the park at the Villa Doria Pamphilj, we shopped for vegetables and cooked together, and before long it felt as if we had been friends forever.
To walk through a vegetable market with Wendy is to look at a string bean, a cauliflower, or a cabbage with fresh eyes. In a culture where you are not invited to touch (very sensibly from where we stand today) she manages to receive permission to poke around and explore until she finds the vegetable that is, to her, the ideal expression of its vegetableness. The searching is the equivalent, in her life drawing sessions, of the command that comes along at intervals and is the only sound to be heard other than music and the scratching of carbon on paper: “cambia” – change, as in change positions, please, patient model.
The models are patient; the vegetables are patient; certainly the ruins of Rome are patient. And Wendy is patient: it’s one of the keys to her craft, I think, the way she waits for the right moment, the right pose, and the right light before she dives in to coax out of the blank page the best, most suggestive take on the subject at hand. And if it turns out to be the wrong moment (or pose, or light) she discards the page and starts again. What matters is going back to see what will happen when hand, eye, medium, and paper come together and stop time.
Michael Frank, 2020
This is the poster for my life drawing sessions, back then! Up on the wall at the forno-pizzeria and on the bulletin board at the American Academy…
Come see LUSH: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, at Gurari Collections in Boston.
My show is online.
LUSH, Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena
at Gurari Collections
460 B Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
November 21, 2020 – March 20, 2021
617 367 9800
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Books I highly recommend by Michael Frank:
Read and listen to The Mighty Franks, and What is Missing, read by Michael Frank himself, on Audible (audiobooks) – links in images!
More information is available about Michael Frank on his website, at michaelfrank.com