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Brushstrokes and Psychology: The San Diego Museum of Art paints a picture showing the importance of paint in society

By Katy Harrison
Balboa Park Beat Contributor

During February’s Culture & Cocktails, I visited the exhibition, Howard Hodgkin: Time and Place: 2001-2010. Though I absolutely love the colors in his works, I’ll admit I didn’t quite understand them, so I invited my more artistically-inclined friend. She’s studied art history and technique and has an understanding and appreciation beyond my own. She looked at the Hodgkin series, “Home, Home on the Range,” turned to me and said, 7._HODGKIN_2007_Home_Home_on_the_Range_0“It bothers me when people say, ‘I could paint that with my eyes closed’ because at the end of the day, those people can’t paint like that and never will. They don’t understand it.” As a person who has claimed to be able to paint like Miro, I’m planning to eat my words during the month of March as The San Diego Museum of Art highlights the best in paint.

Now for me, it’s difficult to connect the seemingly random dots from Howard Hodgkin’s paintings in the exhibition, Time and Place: 2001-2010. More a fan of landscapes and photography, the meaning behind an ”abstract” painting tends to get lost on me, but luckily, I have access to some of the greatest minds in art history and theory, and they constantly challenge me to view works in another light. This is exactly what Julia Marciari-Alexander will do during her March 18 lecture, Howard Hodgkin: Representational Pictures of Emotional Situations. Hodgkin was evacuated to the United States during WWII and learned to use paint as his outlet to describe how he was feeling. Still alive today, his greatest thrill is evoking strong emotions in his viewers as they respond to the colors, patterns and strokes in his works. 

I’ve also come to appreciate that when dealing with paint, it’s not always about the color, it’s also about the technique found in the brushstrokes. If you’ve had the chance to view Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman in person, you might have noticed the incredible detail of the fabric seen in the dresses worn by his sitters. He managed to use paint with carefully crafted brushstrokes, where viewers can almost imagine how the fabric would feel just by looking at the portraits. It’s been said that this gift of portraying textiles came from Gainsborough’s upbringing as the son of a textile merchant.

Fashion, as depicted in Gainsborough’s portraits, is just as important today when looking at the men and women setting trends. On March 26, the Museum will host a panel discussion exploring perceptions, depictions and conditions of the women of our time. Panelists include artists and educators from UCSD, SDSU and two of the Museum’s own pros. What I’m looking forward to hear is whether or not Lady Gaga got her fashion sense from the Giovanna Baccellis of the 18th century. With the detail demonstrated in Gainsborough’s paintings, it’d be hard to not want to emulate these socialites.  And at only $10 for nonmembers, this is a panel discussion that I won’t be missing.

Home, Home on the Range, 2001- 2007
Oil on wood 80 1/4 x 105 1/8 inches (203.8 x 267cm)
© Howard Hodgkin.
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.
Photo credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.