Sherrie’s major work for American Masters, still in progress.

As this show is fast becoming one of the premier shows to exhibit in, I wanted to paint something special for its 10th Anniversary exhibition. Last year I put in a watershed painting, The Playthings of Time, which was similar in subject matter to this one. It had the same rusted tin as the backdrop, the same Chinese pottery on the left, and a Tang horse as the main object. But the ideas are very different.

 

Last year’s painting was inspired by the similarity of the mottled texture of the horse and the design of the peeled paint, and I reveled in merging the two, and yet still pulling the horse from the background. Whereas this year’s effort is just the opposite. I was struck by the contrast of the relatively simple light shape of the horse against the background.

 

In Playthings I emphasize the size contrast between the horse and the ancient Chinese urn and make it part of the dark shape on the left, but in Obeisance, I make it larger in comparison because it plays a different role in the painting; it carries the light in a playful way through the Chinese lanterns and bowl to the horse and rider.

 

Also in the original idea the horse is colorless, almost the color of the lights in the background, so I use that quality of colorlessness to my advantage. The warmth of the rust plays a more prominent role and the two accent colors—alizarin and pthalo blue—make a stunning contrast. The blue weaves its way through the horse and background as well, creating a pleasing unity.

 

The color world in Obeisance is very different as the colors in the horse and rider make a pointed Venetian red note contrasted with the varied oranges in the lanterns. I still haven’t achieved what I have in mind, and that is the part of finish that takes patience and time.

 

And I should say that this year’s painting started as a setup in A Day in the Studio where I originally used the Venus statue instead of the horse. In the film I do try substituting this horse initially as I am arranging the setup, but reject it only because it seemed too subtle to attempt on camera. At the time my heart was set on the statue so I deferred to the striking image that the white statue would make against the textured rust. But when I sat down to paint the statue in earnest, somehow the fire had left my belly for the white Venus. After several tries to get it going, something was amiss when I felt I didn’t know what to do—that is always the cue that something is wrong. I could see that the horse and rider had captured my imagination, and there was no turning back.

 

So stay tuned for the finish, which needs to be very soon!

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