December 5, 2010

Lamentation - Andy Warhol

A couple of months ago, The Examined Life featured an article about Andy Warhol's artwork. It made the case that Warhol's artwork does have something to communicate, and is worth examining and learning from. I appreciated the article, and mentally filed away my new knowledge.

Now I've been thinking of concept art for my novel's cover: it's very rough right now, but there are a lot of images to choose from. I found myself thinking back to one of the images the article referenced: a work called "Lamentation."

When I saw first saw this, I made myself study it and try to understand it more deeply. Perhaps it worked a little, since I remembered it, but it didn't transport me.

But this time was different. I started sketching it, with quick strokes for the fabric she has wrapped around her head. And drawing it, I began to feel some of the violence in the lament. The taut cloth contains the force she feels, but see - it forms a sort of triangle around her, with the three points at her elbows and head. It's as if all the pain must be enclosed within her, straining her but so hard to release.

Next I tried to draw her face. There's an angularity in her chin, and I feel like she's turning her head aside as if someone had struck her. I can feel the suffering in her lips, but her eyes aren't clenched in anguish, instead they are quiet and sad. There isn't anger in the curve of her eyelid, only cold grief.

It took three attempts to draw her right hand, the one held closer to her. Her knuckles are hard but the way her hand is held up shows me that the main thrust of her arm is from her elbow. The hand looks like it's closed mostly for balance, firmness. The only thing I can say about her left hand is that it looks more surrendered.

I'm not sure why Warhol chose to outline the woman with lines that look like neon lights, but I like the way they stand out from the picture and add another dimension. And the shadows are fascinating to me - why is the right side brighter than the rest of the background? I would like to say the shadows are well-placed, but Warhol knows more about art than I do, so I'm not sure if my impression means much.

I went on to sketch the wrinkles on her blouse, and they communicate to me her vulnerability, the longing in her chest. Do you know this feeling? - it is very close and sacred, like being touched.

And so all of this is lamentation. I shall remember it.