My Trip to Paris — Part Two: The Paintings

I had an amazing time painting in Paris. Getting out and painting in this old city, known for centuries of great art, connected me to so many of my heroes and gave me a chance to meet lots of tourists and locals. I cannot wait to go back – there are paintings there I still really want to make!!

They are displayed in the order I made them.

Oil Painting
Hyacinths – on a Rainy Holiday in Paris

It was rainy and a national holiday, so all the museums were closed, so I bought some hyacinths from the nearby flower market and made a still life in the little apartment I was staying in with my aunt.

Oil Painting
The Louvre, as seen from the Tuileries

I love the Louvre so much, I must go back someday and paint the iconic entrance with the pyramid. When I first arrived, I shied away from making a painting that would be so direct, but after spending two weeks in Paris, where they really embrace beauty directly, I realized it’s just as affected to avoid beauty as it is to seek it exclusively.  Best bet is always just paint what moves you. Be real, even if it lands you in a cliche.

Oil Painting
From Pont Neuf, The Seine

Mid Morning looking sort of toward the east.

Oil Painting
Cincannatus in the Tuileries

With a view of the Musee D’Orsay in the background 9 to the left of the statue is  the tip of the museum, with it’s massive clock face peeking out a tiny bit behind the trees).  I finally had a day where Paris had those impressionist clouds you see in paintings.

Oil Painting
Sculpture in the Petit Palais Garden

My local friend showed me this wonderful little park.  Many paintings could be made here.

Oil Painting
Looking out of the Louvre Courtyard

Here I am, nearing the end of my trip, embracing the obvious beauty and being happy about it. Archway to a view with a grand building? The more the merrier.

Notre Dame, oil painting by Sarah F Burns
Notre Dame

My last day painting in Paris, I was under the influence of the Corots I’d seen in the Louvre. I was also recreating the point of view of some impressionist paintings I’d seen.

New Works – Show Opening September First Friday

Come one, come all – I’m showing new work at the Ashland Painters Union  (27 1/2 N. Main St, Ashland – on the Plaza – Up the stairs between Gold and Gems and Cracker Jax) during September.  The show opens First Friday Sept from 5 – 8 pm (or later if the party is super fun).

These pieces are all made within the last few months with the exception of one drawing, which was made last year.  It’s a survey of what I like to paint and reflects my head space in the last 9 or so months.  I quit my day job and have just mellowed out, enjoyed the slow lane a little more this year and the results can actually be seen in my artwork.

I’ll post a piece or two from the show each day or so as a preview leading up to the opening.

 Fantin Latour Roses, Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns
Fantin Latour Roses, Oil Painting by Sarah F Burns

These roses grow in my back yard.  Their name is Fantin Latour and all you art nerds know Fantin Latour is the best painter of flowers ever – French 19th Century guy, friends with Manet and that crew.  I drool and cry over his paintings and I think you can see a nod to him in this piece.

The actual rose bush has a bit of a good back story – it blooms ONE time a year, but those blooms are lovely and smell wonderful.  Rogue Valley rose nerds will guess where this bush came from – the amazing Rogue Valley Roses has hundreds if not thousands of roses on their own root stock in fantastical varieties.  This great business is the labor of love of my old English teacher, Janet Inada.

Inspirations

I just got back from a visit to San Francisco where I went to the De Young museum to see the  Girl with a Pearl Earring show, along with Etching from Rembrandt and his contemporaries.  I found it very inspiring, especially all the etchings, they are so intricate and invite you to spend several minutes with each piece, I was surprised to find them even more engaging than many paintings.  The etching pieces varied in technical ability, some being astonishing in their technical prowess and some (the Rembrandts) were stunning in their communication of humanity and emotion.  There were goofy ones, ones that glorified the state, religious scenes that were moving (Rembrandt), religious scenes that were like crazy pageants, simple home scenes, landscapes and on and on.  Then came the paintings – wonderful banquet tables with meats and lemons and cloth, the flowers that I so love and the stunning Vermeer.  That Vermeer is absolutely wonderful.  (Side note:  Like the Mona Lisa, she has no eyebrows.!? Curious.)

Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665)

Rembrandt_van_Rijn_Etching_1-1

cornelis visscher the large cat

Dutch Fools Etching

American Art Collector Magazine – Floral and Botanical Issue

I have a small feature in March 2013 American Art Collector Magazine!  Check it out here or pick up an issue at a bookstore this month.

Fall and Winter Flowers Oil on Panel 18" x 20" $750 Sarah F Burns
Fall and Winter Flowers Oil on Panel 18″ x 20″ $750 Sarah F Burns

Lots of Experimenting Going on…

Peripheral Visions

I’ll be showing a shadow painting installation at Ashland Painters Union starting January 4 – opening party is from 5 – 8 pm.  The show is up through the end of January, gallery open 1:00 – 5:00 on Fridays and Saturdays. Q is showing sculptural prints.  Together we were goofing off at the Ashland Art Center Print Lab and screened some flyers just for the fun of it.

And on another experimental note:  my chef brother in law recently asked me to make him a drawing of his knife and fork.

Knife and Fork for Neil Clooney Graphite Drawing by Sarah F Burns
Knife and Fork for Neil Clooney Graphite Drawing by Sarah F Burns

became…

neil clooney arms

He’d probably want you to know he needs to go back in to get some touching up done.  You’re really not supposed to go on a wilderness rafting trip for a week the day after you get a large tat.  I guess conditions were less than perfect for healing…. Worth it though, I’m sure.

Lamb Chops

Smithfields Lamb Chops oil painting by Sarah F Burns

I’m heading in to Smithfields today to hang this Lamb Chop painting to replace the Ribeye that sold. Those things in the bowl are white beans, by the way.  I realized it would be hard to identify them when I set up the still life, but went ahead and painted them anyway.  They were such beautiful fresh white beans from Idaho.  The onions were pretty amazing too.  I planned this painting so I could actually eat the meat when I was finished painting it.  I started with them first, then stuck them back in the fridge and finished the rest.

Meet Your Meat: Local artist makes introductions by Jennifer Nitson

My friend Jennifer Nitson wrote this piece for me to use a press release for the show – it’s a delightful piece of writing – It makes me laugh and it tells the story really well.  Enjoy!

Meet Your Meat: Local artist makes introductions

By Jennifer Nitson

Sarah F. Burns was apologetic as she began the second in a series of paintings commissioned by Smithfields Restaurant and Bar.

“I’m entering pretty gory territory here,” Sarah posted on her blog.  “Sorry if you’re squeamish or hate hunting or meat eating or anything like that.”

A long-time resident of Ashland and member of the local art community, Sarah knew some of her readers, fellow artists and friends would be aghast at the thought of the bloody, butchered bear carcass she’d carefully arranged in her studio. Meanwhile, she was preoccupied with how fast she would need to paint it. A classically trained oil painter who only paints from life – never from photos – it was imperative that she work quickly before what was left of the bear rotted.

“There was no way to put it back in the freezer,” she explained.

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A blatantly “meat centric” eating establishment in a town known for its militant vegan and vegetarian factions, Smithfields owner Neil Clooney knew he wanted paintings that would evoke the intensity and satisfaction of the meat eating experience. Featuring locally-sourced meats, Smithfields specializes in serving up dishes that utilize all parts of the animal. Where else in Ashland could you find roasted bone marrow on the menu?

“There is no shying away from the truth about meat when you eat meat,” Clooney said. “A life is lost and someone has to take that life. It is intense and not to be taken lightly, but it’s immensely satisfying and most people love eating well prepared meat.”

In the eight pieces Sarah created for Smithfields, her goal was to draw on that honesty and intensity.

“I wanted to convey the guttural impact and visceral intensity of raw meat, and yet have the paintings contain enough humanity to be enjoyable while dining,” she said.

The paintings are done in a classic Vanitas style – a symbolic art form that originated in 16th century Europe. Vanitas paintings generally contain a moralistic exhortation to remember the fleeting nature of life, and are meant to remind viewers of the transience of life, the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death. At the same time, Vanitas pieces tend to be sensuous, almost indulgent, in style and subject matter. It has been said that some European painters of this time period felt they needed moral justification to make paintings of attractive objects.

Sarah needed no such justification. The commissioned paintings gave her the perfect opportunity to explore a conscious relationship with meat eating that is complex and life-long.

“I have been particularly interested in small scale meat production and nose-to-tail eating because I grew up in that type of lifestyle,” she said. “My father was a farm-kill butcher when I was born. That means he went from farm to farm killing livestock and brought them back to the butcher shop to cut up and wrap.”

The family also raised cows, sheep, chickens and goats on their Eagle Point farm. Sarah and her sisters were not spared the grisly side of this operation.

“I remember watching him chop heads off chickens and toss them into a squawking and blood-squirting pile.”

It may not come as a surprise that during their teen years, Sarah and sisters Miriam and Claire each in turn became vegan – an almost requisite rite of passage for many Ashland youth. What is notable is the conscious way Sarah has examined her path to veganism and back to meat eating.

“Now I kind of see that vegan period as an effort to maintain innocence in a sometimes horrifying world,” she said. “I see it as an attempt to combat and avoid the pains and realities of coming of age.”

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Sarah set to work on the paintings in the dark days of winter. The cold was conducive to having fresh meat out in her home studio, but she struggled against the inflexible limitations of the too-short days.

“I feel like I just barely get started and then my light is gone,” she wrote in a January blog post. “So much work to do and I’m so eager to do it.”

For Sarah, creating the paintings became an adventure and a meditation on the ephemeral nature of life as she coped with the logistics of working with perishable meat.

With the first piece she enjoyed the luxury of being able to paint the myriad background objects before introducing a cow’s tongue to the still-life setting. She was also able to put the tongue back in the freezer between painting sessions.

Things got more complicated with the rotting bear carcass and the brace of chickens.

“Once arranged, the chickens needed to be left where they were in the studio,” Sarah explained.

She cleared her schedule for a few days and her husband Tom brought home three live birds, which he killed and gutted in the back yard.

The chickens were strung up, artfully, in the studio, and Sarah embarked on a three-day painting marathon. Dry ice was placed near the chickens, and she fashioned a hood out of a tarp to cover them at night. When the painting was finished, the chickens had not yet started to smell, and though the artist faced complex logistics and a scarcity of time, the painting produced conveys a simple abundance.

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As the dark days of winter gave way to a wet Oregon spring, and as summer brings promises of long, bright days of plenty, Sarah’s paintings are finally finished and ready to take their places on the walls of Smithfields.

In the traditional manner of Vanitas painting, Sarah has explored with these pieces the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of death, painting in a sumptuous style that both soothes and awakens the senses, while imparting a message:

“Life is short and you will die, so think about how you are living,” Sarah said. “And in this context, think about how your meat and food is produced.”

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The public is invited to an artist’s reception for a series of paintings by Sarah F. Burns entitled “Meet Your Meat.”

The reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, July 16 at Smithfields Restaurant and Bar, at 36 South Second St., in Ashland. Hors de oeuvres, wine and Prosecco will be provided and the bar will be open during the event.

Those in attendance will have the opportunity to meet the artist and learn about the inspirations and process involved in creating these oil paintings. The pieces were commissioned by Smithfields owner Neil Clooney for his meat-centric restaurant, which opened in Ashland in 2011.

“I’m excited for Sarah’s work to be hanging on the walls of Smithfields,” said Clooney. “She’s a fantastic artist and I feel the paintings will help the customers draw the connection between the life an animal lives, before being treated respectfully with cooking technique to provide that customer with a satisfying dining experience.”

To learn more about the artist, visit her blog at sarahfburns.com.

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