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Wendy Artin: "I love paper, and pigments being transported along a thin surface of transparent water.
Although my paintings are often classical, I studied at the Museum School in Boston and
the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris when marks, gesture and atmosphere were of greatest importance.
As I travelled more and more, the charcoal and oils gave way to a small watercolor box and brushes.
Through the streets of Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Boston, New York, Mexico and Guatemala, I have painted
indoors and out, subjects from the eternal to the fleeting. The human form and the humble strawberry are
endlessly inspiring."
Wendy Artin, Arts and Minds, documentary film by Julie Kucaj of Bravo Television, Canada 2002
Click here to see 62 works by Wendy Artin in the Prints & Drawings Collection of the Boston Public Library  
Click here to see Rocks, Paper, Memory: Wendy Artin's Watercolor Paintings of Ancient Sculpture,
the 2015 Exhibition at the Kelsey Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, now entirely on-line.

Art Review: Wendy Artin's 'Flesh and Stone' breathes new life into sculptures, article in The Boston Globe, by Cate McQuaid, December 20, 2022. Click here to read article on my blog
Flesh and Stone, by Ingrid Rowland, October 2022
The Softness of Everyday Objects, article in Art of Watercolour Magazine, September 2022
Interview for LINEA, with Stephanie Cassidy, Art Students League, July 2022
The Flow of Water Colors, poem for Flow, by Francis Morrissey, November 2021
“Life drawing this evening. Open to all.” Writing for Lush, by Michael Frank, October 2020
Cose Naturali, writing for Lush: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, by Jonathan Nossiter, October 2020
Writing about Lush: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, by Wendy Artin, October 2020
Introduction to Révèle - Work on Paper, by Pat Nicholson, October 2019
Writing for Révèle - Work on Paper, by André Aciman, October 2019
Writing about Révèle - Work on Paper, by Wendy Artin, October 2019
Review of Révèle by Danielle Alyssa Boudrot at Delicious Line, by Danielle Alyssa Boudrot, November 2019
Wendy Artin Watercolors - No Pencil Lines - Painting Masters 26, video by Liron Yanconsky on YouTube, April 2019
Ancient and Modern, article in Watercolor Artist Magazine, by John Parks, February 2019
Return, an introduction to Ad Libitum - Work on Paper from Rome and Tivoli, by Elizabeth McGowan, October 2018
Introduction to Ad Libitum - Work on Paper from Rome and Tivoli, by Guy Hedreen, October 2018
Ad Libitum, reflections from exhibition catalogue by Wendy Artin, October 2018
Introduction to Wendy Artin - Here Today, Athens, Rome, Paris, London, New York, 2017, by Joshua David, November 2017
MEDUSA on YouTube, ekphrastic prose by Susanna Mattiangeli read by Justin Broackes, November 2017
The Wall, an ekphrastic tale by Lily Artin Boschin, October 2017 (click here to read text)
Stalking Beauty, reflections from exhibition catalogue by Wendy Artin, October 2017
Spotlight on an Artist - Wendy Artin, article by Stephen Berry, Seamless Expression, July 2017
The New Shadows, Judd, Artin, article by William Eaton, Zeteo, February 2017
Known and Mysterious - Wendy Artin's Watercolors in "From the Roman Studio", article by Grace Dane Mazur, the Arts Fuse, November 2015
Being in Time, Wendy Artin's watercolors, text by Jessica Fisher, October 2015
From the Roman Studio, reflections from exhibition catalogue by Wendy Artin, October 2015
Workshop on Wendy Artin's Engagement with the Classical Past: Craggy Face, by James Cogswell, Kelsey Museum, October 2015
Sordoni exhibition catalog, Persistence: The Continuing Influence of Classical Myths, with an introduction by Stanley I Grand, Sordoni Gallery, Wilkes Barre, 2016
Stone from Delphi, Water from Rome, article by Franklin Einspruch, the New York Sun, November 1, 2013
Wendy Artin, Stone from Delphi, review by Susan Tallman, Art in Print, Volume 2, Number 5, January - February 2013 (see jpeg of article)
Masters Of Watercolor: Wendy Artin, by Konstantin Sterkhov, Masters of Watercolor, Saint Petersburg 2013 (see article in pdf)
Masters Of Watercolor: Interview with Wendy Artin by Konstantin Sterkhov, Masters of Watercolor, Saint Petersburg 2013
Watercolors That Mirror Historic Marble Frieze, article by Cate McQuaid, the Boston Globe, November 16, 2011 (see article in pdf)
Wendy Artin -- Translating Marble Onto Paper, article by Grace Dane Mazur, the Arts Fuse, November 2011 (click on box in upper left-hand corner to read black text on white background)
Liquid on Stone, article by Franklin Einspruch, the New York Sun, November 16, 2011
The Parthenon Friezes, text by Alexander Purves, October 2011
North Frieze Block XLIII, Figures 118-20, sonnet by Karl Kirchwey, October 2011
Painting the Fluid Figure in Watercolor, article by Bob Bahr, American Artist Watercolor, winter 2011 (see article in pdf)
Figure Drawing, 7th Edition, by Nathan Goldstein, Pearson, 2011
La Frise du Parthénon, article by Laurent Benoist, L'Art de l'Aquarelle n.7, 2011 (see article)
Our Man in Rome, article by Eric Lyman, Open Skies Column, 2011 (see article in pdf)
The Poetry of Ruins , article by Laurent Benoist,The Art of Watercolour 1st issue, 2010 (see article)
Escapade en Italie, article by Laurent Benoist, L'Art de l'Aquarelle n.3, January 2010 (see page #1, #2, #3, #4)
Escapade Romaine, Arts Magazine n.40, December 2009 (see page)
Columnae, text by Alexander Purves, 2009
Hadrien, Wendy Artin, catalogue with text by Alexander Purves, Galerie du Passage, 2009
Esprit de Corps, Wendy Artin, catalogue with text by Amy Fine Collins, Gurari Collections 2007
Wendy Artin: Esprit de Corps, article by Catherine Laferrière, Artscope November-December 2007
Wendy Artin '80: Making an Art Form Out of Life, article by Laura Levis, BB&N Bulletin, fall 2007 (see page #1, #2, #3)
Le Corps Jailli des Ombres, article by Alexandra Bourré, Pratique des Arts Hors Série No. 8 (see page #1-2, #3-4, #5-6)
The Emergence of Tonal Drawing, excerpt of article by Ephraim Rubenstein, 2006, 2011 American Artist (see article, read text)
Foro Italico, Wendy Artin, catalogue with text by Stephen Harby, Gurari Collections 2005
Toys, Wendy Artin, catalogue with text by Robert Capia, Galerie du Passage 2005
Femmine, Wendy Artin, catalogue with texts by Laura Riccioli, Tamara Bertolini, Gurari Collections 2003
Still Life with Flavor, article by Joshua David (see pdf), Gourmet, Rome Edition, March 2003
Wendy Artin, text by Noemi Giszpenc, ArtsMedia, November 2002
Roma Antica, Wendy Artin, catalogue with text by Wendy Artin, Gurari Collections 2002
Dessins et Aquarelles 1994-2001, Wendy Artin, catalogue with texts by Pierre-Jean Rémy, April Gornik and Eric Fischl, Galerie du Passage 2001
Figures, Wendy Artin, catalogue with texts by April Gornik and Eric Fischl, Gurari Collections 2001
Artin Craft, An American Artist in Rome, article by Amy Fine Collins, Vanity Fair (see article), September 2001
Così, Come un'artista, Gabriella Cherubini, Grazia, December 2001
Aphrodite, Wendy Artin, catalogue with texts by Adele Chatfield-Taylor, Richard Leacock, Valerie Lalonde, Guarari Collections 2000
Roman Fever, Cate McQuaid, Boston Globe, October 6, 2000
Rome Rises on Charles St. Aphrodite Smiles, Charles M. Long, Beacon Hill Back Bay Chronicle, October 11, 2000
Pintar La Vida, Contar la Historia, Urbano Hidalgo, Joyce, October 2000
Wendy Artin, un regard d'aquarelle, article by Misha de Potestad (see page #1, #2, #3), Elle Decoration, Octobre 1999
Wendy Artin, escapades sur papier, article by Milu Cachat (see page #1, #2, #3, #4), Cote Sud, October-November 1998
Looking for Artin Walls, Heidi Mae Bratt, New York Post, November 26, 1996
With Pencil, Brush and Charcoal: Works on paper by Wendy Artin, Cate McQuaid, Boston Globe November 21, 1996
In Art, Wendy Artin, text by Wendy Artin, Boston Public Library, 1996
Le mouvement dans le dessin et la peinture, and L'espace dans le dessin et la peinture, Daniel Lacomme, Ed. Bordas, Paris 1995
Wendy Artin painting walls in New York City, by Satoro Ishikawa, photo, and article, Yomiuri America, 1993

Flesh and Stone, 2022

Flesh and Stone

Like Michelangelo’s Captive emerging from his block of marble, Wendy Artin’s figures emerge from an alchemical suspension of pigment in water that allows a blotch of paint to become the arm of a real man, Andrea; a marble drape; the feathered stone wing of the fallen and mythic Icarus; or a whole repertory of shadows: as ethereal as an enveloping mist, as solid as the tiny cast shadow on the upper edge of a carved block of Pentelic marble that propels her image of the Parthenon frieze into three dimensions.

Rivulets of water dissolve Federica’s body and hair into a granular spray of sanguine, but the shadow cast on the tip of her left thumb by its nail argues for that body’s solidity, especially when that thumb itself is projected forward into space by the decisive shadow it casts on a particularly luminous expanse of flesh.

Whether Wendy is painting warm flesh or cool stone, her watercolors convey a powerful sense of their object’s presence, registered above all as light, light in perpetual contrast with uncannily varied gradations of darkness.

The quicksilver movement of water captures the compelling, incessant movement–the liveliness–of her models, and makes her paintings of sculpted bodies quiver with something akin to life in two dimensions.

Watercolor always imposes a certain spontaneity on painters, but in these new works Wendy lets the medium develop extreme degrees of abstraction, and the result–like those dabs of oil paint that Titian and Velazquez could turn into a Cupid’s wing or a lace collar–is a penetrating, infinitely suggestive glimpse into a world of sight, sense, and physicality.

Ingrid D. Rowland, 2022

Ingrid D. Rowland
November 2022

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Flow, 2021

The Flow of Water Colors

A universe of water colors flows
from the paint brushes of Wendy Artin –
beautiful and true – depicting oceanic greens and blues
and Sienna brown, red, and umber earthen hues.

Depictions close to home and hand:
views of objects quotidian,
familiar things, sometimes overshadowed by the epochal
of Roman ruins and classical museum statues.

The watery colors embody Heraclitus’ pre-Socratic epigram:
all things flow. Lush water colors saturate
the fibers of expectant cotton paper.
The artist’s pigments convey core images and their shadows.

The single brown stems of flora,
the yellow-green of pears, the greens
of ripe vegetables, the reds of onions,
luscious pomegranates, and quivering trees and their leaves,

awaken visual and sensate appetites.
Twigs and small branches spotted with tiny blossoms,
and brightly colored berries and petals,
enrich the core of our existence.

How wondrous their two-dimensional presence!
How penetrating the artist’s gaze and painterly confidence!
How appreciative of objects, organic and chiseled stone material!
How pellucid the quality of these images!

Pools and streams of liquid water colors, limpid
and crystal clear, convey a rich translucency.
O! The subtleties of water color flows!
Even an image of a pencil’s shadow glows.

Francis Morrissey, 2021  

Francis Morrissey
November 2021

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Lush: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, 2020

“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 withWendy 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
October 2020

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Lush: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, 2020

“What is animate?”, Wendy Artin seems to ask us.

What is solid matter and what is liquid?

If an inanimate sculpture can be turned to vibrant flesh by her magic hand why can’t organic matter, in its turn, acquire the epic, mineral dimension of sculpture?

But the solidity of Artin’s forms, her reimagining, her sculptural rendering of garden vegetables are not fixed in space. The watery traces of her brushstroke keep everything and everyone in motion, fluid, vital, alive.

They entice us into imagining the inner life of a tuber, our own relationship to nature.

And fuel our disbelief that the French dare to call these shimmering odes to natural life, “nature-morte.” And our sadness that the Italians ignored Vasari’s call to consider them “cose naturali,” eventually imitating instead the French lesson in perversity with “natura morta.”

Life is only fleetingly still in Artin’s imagining. But it is still life.  

Jonathan Nossiter,
vegetable farmer at Fattoria La Lupa, Bolsena
... and grower of the turnips in the exhibit.

October 2020

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LUSH: Flora e Fauna dalla Quarantena, 2020

Each painting in this show represents something luscious that I have seen.When I paint with watercolor, I try to make each mark count, to make each stroke of the brush describe what I am looking at, to get the right puddle on the paper and capture life. Sometimes the puddle has a skinny red edge, sometimes a soft burst of pigment, sometimes a lucky watery accident.

The centerpiece of Lush is a large commissioned watercolor from the 2nd century Roman Farnese Sarcophagus. Satyrs and women cavort in revelry, gathering grapes, pulling at tunics and exchanging amorous glances. The thick slab of marble is echoed in the thin surface of water and pigment on paper, with shapes of washes that evoke the light and movement of the ancient figures.

Figure drawing sessions have always been a golden spot of my week, a few hours during which the world melts away and the only thing that exists is trying to capture something of the model in a pose that will soon vanish.

This spring the whole of humanity was immobilized. Forced to abandon live sessions, I pulled out videos of models I had taken pre-lockdown. I became entranced by the positions in the middle of a movement, poses that are physical, private and oblivious, like someone exercising alone, poses that no model could ever hold long enough live for a watercolor to be made.

One day slipped into the next, as I took my small bag of trash out for a walk up the Gianicolo hill to the dumpsters, and each day, brought home a new stem of clover to paint. I had never realized how utterly beautiful clover is, how fascinating, how endlessly challenging. I filled bowls, vases, the kitchen sink...

During this strangely silent time, my studio wall became covered with figures caught off balance, stretching and flowing, alive and dynamic, and also clover, painted over and over.

When lockdown eased, the gardens of friends were in full flourish, and I gladly received nature’s bounty, from strawberries and turnips to cherries and figs. To paint and to eat, with simplicity and appreciation.

From the revelry of ancient bucolic satyrs and maidens, to the humble clover, the flowing figures, and the fruits and flowers, these are paintings about the luscious cycle of life.  

Wendy Artin,

October 2020

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Révèle, 2019

Fragments. Figures. These images are a reflection on stone, skin, water and light. The fleeting glimpse caught in time, revealed.

I love working from the figure, whether live model or statue. I love how universal the body is, how images of the human form resonate intimately with each one of us, the way a hit song or a favorite food are such personal but shared passions. When working from statues I try to go one layer backwards, to paint the models that were posing, to enter the emotion and meaning of what the body was expressing. I want the pictures to feel like that body was feeling.

Whether I am working quickly, or for months on a single tiny drawing, I try to have the images emerge from the paper with information that is just the right amount, almost there, or suggested, allowing for imagination, for breath, for relief. I want them to be like the impression you have when you have seen something that grabs you for just a moment, that you want to see again.

The space to breathe has always been for me the white of the paper, which weaves in and out of the brushstrokes like a path. Painting with watercolor is a bit like dancing with a partner: you have to dip and turn as things flow and dry – sometimes you are together, sometimes not – it is always an adventure. Making the brown paper sing has been a fascinating new challenge. I want the drawings to look like they have just happened – poof! – as if white chalk has barely grazed the surface before flitting off again, like pollen.

And figs? Figs have been in season here in Rome, a gift from my poet neighbor, a celebration of life and irresistibility  

Wendy Artin
October 2019

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Revele, 2019

Wendy Artin's art reminds me of those human statues found on so many squares in Europe.

These statues wear strange costumes that must be suffocating in the summer, especially as they can stand motionless for hours. On occasion, especially when a tourist drops a coin in the statue’s hat or bowl, the statue will perform a short, mirthy gesture to express its gratitude or a pirouette that lasts four or fewer seconds before returning to its motionless condition. Some can remain motionless for very long stretches and seem frozen after staring at the Medusa, while others are so well sculpted that they meld into the crowd and do not stand out until you realize they are totally still.

Artin's work catches both conditions perfectly and oscillates between the effortless grace and fluency of the human body asked not to move for a few seconds and the stillness of marble that craves to move and does move and finally speaks in the enigmatic tongue of watercolor brushstrokes.

The body moved, the statue doesn't — or Artin suggests, it is always going to be the other way around. One is not meant to know.  

André Aciman
October 2019

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Revele, 2019

In Wendy's new exhibition, Révèle, the American artist explores absence, beauty and the corporeal in her representation of the human form.

Révèle brings together watercolours and charcoal and chalk drawings on white or brown paper capturing both live models and statues, all caught in a fleeting glance that belies stunning craft.

The work reflects an ongoing conversation around stone and flesh that Artin has pursued as one of the world’s most brilliant watercolourists, while pushing her into new technical achievements.

Her work shows fragments of the human body, allowing the viewer to imagine the rest. The light chalk or brushwork adds to our sense of a fleeting glimpse, caught in time.

Fragments reveal, give meaning, beauty, perhaps unease. Here the human body is present in all its pulsating life, its joy and fragility. The live models are in voluptuous poses, sprawled out after merriment and bacchanal.

They are a celebration of our round bodies, velvety torsos, our smooth skin reflecting who we are in all our lovable fascinating seductive selves.

Artin lives with her family in Rome. The once upon a time nomad arrived there 25 years ago. The Eternal City provides one side of the coin in the fountain for Artin, with its classicism and its eloquent light being a constant companion.

And if nudes can cause the eye to avert, statues invite closer inspection. With all Wendy's work, the viewer is drawn in and up close rewarded: the illusion vanishing into the abstraction of chalk dust or the residue of pigment from watercolour evaporated.

Adam and Eve may have used their leaves to cover up, but there's nothing modest about the most ambrosial fruit of all, the fig. Artin captures the juicy decadent flesh with visually stunning watercolours of figs from the summer harvest.


Pat Nicholson
October 2019

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Return, 2018

Return. It seems a truism that once in Rome, and then elsewhere, you spend your life trying to return to Rome. What does it mean to return? What do we seek there?

Ruins, pines, the frenetic swirl of fountains, of people and traffic, the juxtaposition of new and old, the intense stillness of Roman light. We return to find, among the inevitable changes, that which endures in our memory: the ancient buildings, churches, piazzas, markets, and parks that frame and stage the city for its continuing contemporary life. And perhaps the most familiar constant is the light.

In Wendy Artin's hand a watercolor wash defines the outline of a sunlit stone column. It reveals the hard edge of a Corinthian capital's floral scrolls and seems to draw them out into three dimensions, as if revealed by the exactitude of Roman daylight. The sepia tone of the wash instills a sense of timelessness, a sense that nothing has changed since we were last here. The ruins, ruined long ago, persevere, even if our own human lives have changed profoundly in the years we were gone. What does it take to endure? The word itself incorporates not the Latin word for strength, but for hardness. Wendy is able to capture the durability of Roman brick, and marble, and travertine revealed by Roman light, it seems, with the flick of a fine brush. How does she do it? The realness of her ruins somehow seems like a trick, a trompe l'oeil.

And then there are the pines, the umbrella pines that formed backdrops in our memories of Rome during the years that we were away. In Wendy's pictures they crowd the background of a scene of the Roman Forum, where straight cylinders of columns support horizontal lintels, and ribbed domes top churches made up of stacked cubes. The irregular masses of the trees' dark pine branches flow into each other and cascade in a ragged diagonal behind the upright architecture. They seem caught up in muffled hilarity, sneaking behind columns, or scattering like cats at a loud noise. Wendy creates those spreading dark tree tops with a stain of dark color that seems to absorb Roman light to the same degree that her pictures' stone piers reflect it. Branches like the v-shaped arms of caryatids support the arching mass of blurry dark needles. The pale wash at the edge of a treetop suggests an afterimage of movement, of trees in the wind. They seem animate, and perhaps more so when they appear as the supporting cast behind ancient stone ruins. In Wendy's watercolors the present and the past are juxtaposed: dark uneven treetop masses absorb, and hard-edged enduring temples and domes reflect, and are defined by, Rome's constant flood of light.

Wendy saves colors for ephemera: graffiti, stickers and posters on a brick wall, and groceries. Not just any groceries, but plums, cabbages and artichokes from the daily green market outside her apartment in Trastevere. Pale pinks and greens make up the tight buds of early spring peonies, while long eggplants shine with deep purple skins, and dark purple and green form an artichoke. We have seen her paint an artichoke. Her amazing hand pulls water, pigment, and light across textured white paper. The leaves and stalk and ribs appear and disappear, and reappear, as if conjured. But we know they're not conjured. They are painted by Wendy Artin, who has mastered Roman light through watercolor, and is able to convey that feeling of light and shadow so particular to Rome, its ruins, its trees, and even its artichokes. When we leave Rome this time we'll carry with us the sense of light from our time here for a while. But when it fades we’ll be reminded of how that light defines, reflects, makes concrete, or is absorbed when we look at Wendy's paintings.

Elizabeth McGowan
Professor of Art
Chair of Art History
Williams College
October 2018

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Ad Libitum, 2018

Wendy Artin.
In the fall of 2017, we returned to Rome pretty much for the first time since 1994. As it happened, in 1994, as our stay in Rome was drawing to a close, Wendy arrived in the city. Even more footloose than we (we had jobs to return to), she had embarked on a summer visit of a few months in Rome, ending up spending twenty years. Our return in fall of 2017 coincided with her own return to the city after a two-year exile. Imagine our pleasure in walking down the hill and up the stairs and into her apartment and seeing, taped to the wall, a very large charcoal drawing of Bernini's sculpture of the Rio della Plata.

Freed from the monument, the river god comes to life. That sensation is effected by the expanded range of contrast afforded by charcoal on paper. He lifts one hand to protect himself against the sight of the sun or of god or who knows, as we cannot see his face. Hanging next to him, the Rio Ganges, part of the same series of drawings, by contrast, looked very much like the piece of carved stone that he is. Old, indebted to antiquity, inhabiting a differential temporality, like a glacier. In his eyes and expression is the sense of thinking in slow motion. The shallow dark gray matrix surrounding the bearded figure transforms him into a kind of carved stone relief on the wall, which of course is what he is, a charcoal-sculpture.

The striking contrast in style between the two drawings is a reflection of Wendy's expertise in drawing and painting stone sculpture. Indeed, the Rio Ganges appears in another large charcoal drawing, but you would not recognize him at first glance, because the figure is handled so differently. In this image, the figure comes off the page, the bottom of one foot and the toes of the other, close enough for us to touch. The figure is sharply lit from the back, and the river god turns toward the light. Like two other charcoal drawings of Bernini's rivers, this one does not allow us to look into the eyes. The effect of this, like the effect of the raised hands of the two other river gods, is to reanimate Bernini's stone figures, make them mysterious again, by putting into question the objects of their attention. The rivers, or the drawings, hold something back. We know these stone gods; they are acquaintances. We return to them from time to time in Piazza Navona. But there they seem a little dazed, for they are surrounded by chattering admirers, and the din of water dulls the mind. Eighteenth century critics came down hard on statues like these. In Winckelmann's memorable, snooty put-down, they are "like common people who have suddenly met with good fortune.” The critics asked,Where is the noble simplicity and quiet grandeur? Why has the sculptor so openly depicted high drama? Where is the subtlety of allusion, the intellectual free space for reverie? Wendy's drawings, which give the figures an unfathomable interior life, are a quiet, damning response.

One irony in the images of the river gods is that they are water figures, surrounded by pool and fountain, but made out of dry charcoal, whereas Wendy's principal medium is watercolor. The watercolors are characterized above all by a delicate balance between the media of hard stone, live wood, purple fruit, white paper, and liquid pigment. Consider the range of resolutions in the watercolor entitled Testa Bifronte, from the washed-out halo to the razor-sharp folds of the veil to the startlingly black drilled hole in the ear. Those effects are fundamental to the appeal of Wendy's many pictures of ruins and pines. In those works, the white or cream background of the paper support becomes the most solid thing in the image, and the hard brick monument from 2,000 years ago, or the 100-year-old umbrella pine, is like a dream. Consider two watercolors, one of the solid temple of Saturn and the other of misty umbrella pines. The trunks of the trees are no match for the phalanx of cylinders, arraying against the viewer, standing proudly apart from each other, oblivious to their metal band-aids, in defiance of time. The trunks of the pines huddle together for protection, uncertain of exactly which direction to grow. But the mass of dark pigment into which the trunks disappear, like the pine grove it represents, is more solidly fixed in my mind than the temple of Saturn will ever be.

The watercolors lack archaeological or antiquarian exactitude, which characterizes the art and writing of some Romanophiles, for who the city really is the only eternal thing in the world, for whom the past is more present than today. In as much as they are metaphors at all, the watercolors speak to a different experience, a different attitude toward the eternal city, at least for me. Obviously, this is an artist who sees the antiquities of Rome as passionately as any recorder of the city. But the unfocused, fleeting forms of the images, the range of subjects from the monumental to the marketplace, speak of a relationship with the city that is more tentative, transitory, easily lost, and living to a great extent in the moment and in memory.

Guy Hedreen
Amos Lawrence Professor of Art
Williams College
October 2018

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The Wall, an ekphrastic tale written about the painting Muhammed Ali, John & Yoko, 26" x 41", 2017

It had been dark for quite a few hours, but they still could hear the shouts and drunken songs moving away from them. Even in small streets, New York is the city that never sleeps. From a window across the way, they could see a bright alarm clock strike one AM. Then two. Then three.

"Well, that went well"

"Yes, for you. I got torn again"
"At least it wasn't as much as last time"
"Shut up, you've never been torn"
"Yeah, because you're covering half of us"

"Listen -- I didn't have any say in my pla-"
She was cut off by the roar of a motorcycle engine in the distance.
"Do you think it's coming here?" Said the second voice, suddenly hushed.
"Be quiet and get into position" replied a third.

The first voice coughed. There was a general shushing and a moment of buzzing that sounded like a hummingbird's wings.

The engine was getting closer, as a light appeared at the corner of the block. The vehicle turned onto the little street and stopped. As a dark figure got off, they could hear the sounds of spray paint cans rattling around. It had been a few weeks since the last addition. The rider removed the helmet and put down a bag. They all knew this would take a while, and yet it was hard to hold still. The figure did not take the spray paint out. Instead, a big piece of paper that had been folded up was removed from the bag's pocket, along with a jar of white liquid and a paintbrush. The rider started to brush some of the liquid onto the wall, then unfolded the piece of paper, stuck it to where the glue was, then brushed over it. The biker stepped away, to admire the work, then move to examine the rest of the wall. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, half covered by a girl eating a lollipop. Below them, a round Canadian logo of some sort with a hummingbird sticker stuck onto it. Next to the hummingbird, a fascist symbol had been drawn over the last two letters of the word "Canada". Looking angry, the rider reached for the peeling edge of the paper and tore off the part where the symbol was, leaving the hummingbird next to an upside down V shape. A drawn face peeked out where somebody else had torn the paper with the Canadian logo. On the other side of the corner, above the paper that was now drying, there was a cartoon of a young looking child with a shirt that said rebel, covering a stylized Rosie the Riveter. The rider stood back and looked at the ensemble once more. Satisfied, the helmet came back on and the bag went back over the shoulder, as the figure hopped back on the bike and drove away, the roaring of the engine slowly fading.

"Oh my gosh. Poor hummingbird" said the girl with the lollipop "he almost got torn"

"What is it?" Asked John Lennon, moving out of his poster and closer to the wet paper. "Careful," said Rosie the Riveter "it's still wet. You don't want to get wet, do you?"

"Well then, you're closer. Tell us what it is"

"Yes, PLEASE," said the girl with the lollipop, jumping up and down in her poster "is it a person?" -- "It has boxing gloves, so I think so," said the Little Rebel, straining her eyes to look down "but it got me wet, I'm stuck" -- "I wonder how long it'll take to dry," said Yoko Ono "It's no use, John", she added, as he tried to get closer. "At least he got rid of that horrible symbol, I don't know how the hummingbird looks at it all day".

The hummingbird flew up to where the Lollipop Girl was, to sit down on her shoulder trying to stop the fidgeting, and John went back to his spot next to Yoko. An unfamiliar yawn made them all jump.

"Where am I?" said the same voice. "The new guy's dry!" Exclaimed the face peeking out from the sign. "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!" Said the lollipop girl, resuming to jump up and down as the hummingbird flew off her shoulder. "Who are you?"
"I don't know, I just got here"

"Oh, right. Well, you'll find out as soon as tourists get excited about who you are and shout 'Hey, this dude's on the wall. Come take a picture of me with him'".
"Okay," said the new guy. Who are you?"
"Oh, I'm not a famous person. I just eat a lollipop"

"Okay. What about the rest of you?" The alarm clock beeped. 6 AM. "Everybody -- back into your positions". Everyone froze, even the new guy understood. A couple of fast-moving New Yorkers walked by, not even noticing the wall. The woman whose alarm clock had gone off stepped out of her building in running clothes, her between her shoulder and her cheek.

"Oh look!" she said to the phone while passing them "they added Muhammad Ali to the wall across from my house!"

Lily Boschin
October 2017

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Being in Time, from the catalogue The Roman Studio

For the past several years, Wendy Artin and I have intermittently returned to a conversation we began while I was living in Rome. When I was first there, I felt paralyzed as a writer by what felt to me an injunction to repeat the great themes that have for so many centuries characterized an artist’s view of that monumental city. Artin’s work fascinated me because for her, the city’s familiar ruins and statues were anything but calcified; her paintings elucidate the way that time has shaped the objects she depicts, of course, but also, in her watery medium, stone re-enters the play of time. We began talking about nostalgia, that desire to return to the beloved, and about what each iteration of such a reencounter might bring anew. It was through our ongoing conversation that I began to think about the value of art as a trace, as the imprint of a hand or mind moving with or through its medium, constrained, as we all always are, by time. Whether painting classical subjects, her models, or fruits brought in from the market, Artin is absolutely committed to the present moment, which is both an ethics and, I think, an erotics. The immediacy of her art does not preclude loss - instead, since her painting is always of that which has been, one might say that it is imbued with it - but it does offer the fact of our being-in-time as an absolute, though fleeting, consolation. Indeed, one of the great tensions in Artin’s work is the play of time: watercolor is the most temporally-bound form of painting, yet of course the work of art also endures past the moment of its composition, to be experienced time and again.

The first thing to say about Artin’s paintings is how incredibly beautiful they are, how gestural and sensuous, how alive. And yet theirs is a paradoxical presence, since so many of her figures are penetrated by absence - this is one way of understanding the effect of the highlights, rendered by leaving the paper untouched, which frequently merge with the unpainted background. The bareness of both highlight and background is identical, and yet the first signifies presence, the second absence. The viewer is drawn into the process of making as she or he chooses where to read form, where negative space; our desire completes the dance begun by the brush and its liquid medium. And we are mesmerized, too, into the deep abstraction of Artin’s marks, which fall repeatedly out of their representational function. The effect is one of a pervasive light and energy that maps neither onto the subject portrayed nor onto the artist behind the brush, but onto the medium itself. There are starbursts where the paint has backrun, and halos around the bodies where it has bled, which are incredibly moving to me, and remind me of what Virginia Woolf writes in To the Lighthouse: "Our apparitions, the things you know us by, are simply childish. Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by." Artin’s work shows both the ghostly "apparitions" we recognize as form and the "dark, ... spreading, ... unfathomably deep" substance from which they emerge, and to which they return.

There are three main series - of paintbrushes, nudes, and sculptures - in this show of Artin’s new work at the Gurari Collections. In the nudes and in the paintings of classical sculptures, Artin shows opposing sides of the same coin; but as she turns it around and around, the two sides begin to merge. Artin transforms in the alchemy of her eye one form of being into another, enacting a metamorphosis no less startling than those Ovid describes. Her work brings both the living model and the sculptures from antiquity into a paradoxical and fascinating space: in the living medium of watercolor, they are no longer flesh or stone, living or dead - those easy antinomies - but rather enter the mysterious space of representation, in which the particular is abstracted and the abstract is made once again particular. The uncanniness of Artin’s work stems in part from the vivacity of these forms   the sculptural fragments are eerily enlivened, just as the living models are transformed from flesh into painterly marks, which eventually begin to "come to life" - this is Artin’s way of describing the moment when the illusion of three-dimensionality begins. "I would almost leave the drawing at that first moment," Artin writes. Indeed, the brilliance of many of these paintings is their ability to keep figuration at bay, to preserve the traces of mark-making that insure that these paintings’ subject is the ceaseless and endlessly fascinating drama of becoming. What we read in these paintings is, then, something like the history of their own making.

Perhaps an equally interesting comparison might be made between the new series of paintbrushes and Artin’s vast oeuvre depicting the ruins and fragments of antiquity, as well as the urban walls of New York, Paris, and Rome she used to paint. For they are, after all, all visions of the palimpsest. The older paintings archive the long history of the city, accessing the shared language of public life, while the paintbrushes chronicle a private world. Though seemingly inanimate and impersonal, the painted brushes archive the drive toward creation and beauty that gave shape to her family’s life together in Rome. These brushes, squat and stained with wall paint, stand in contrast to the watercolor brushes that rendered them; and like the fragmentary texts read in a palimpsest, they point only in incomplete ways to the stories of which they are a part. And yet they survive, as talismanic objects that carry their maker backwards into memory, and forward, once again, into art.

Jessica Fisher
Williams College Department of English
October 2015

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Wendy Artin : The Parthenon Friezes

The Parthenon Friezes enjoy a room of their own in the British Museum.   These fifth century marble reliefs are arranged along the walls in a linear sequence that surrounds the visitor.   A skylight distributes even light over the horses, their riders and all the actors in the great procession as it makes its way around the room.   Everywhere are stamping legs, creaking wheels, snorts and bellows - a maelstrom of activity straining to break out of the few inches of marble into which it has been compressed.   But an uncanny quiet is present in the room.   Action coexists with stillness, clamor with silence.

The power of this experience has moved generations of visitors.   Wendy Artin has responded in her own way - as an artist.   "For years I have been dreaming of painting them.   I wanted to spend a long time staring at them, drawing them, getting lost in the cracks and relief, understanding the rhythmic movement of the heads, the bodies, the legs."   She has come to know every swelling, every crevice.   The watercolors are images of the sculptures, to be sure, but they pulse with a vitality of their own that is quite distinct from that of the originals.   And this vitality comes from the act of painting.  

Painting continues a process that began when the sculptor first captured the swirling mayhem of the actual procession as it thundered through real space in real time.   He squeezed this activity into the shallow space between the face of the stone and the background plane.   The watercolors further collapse these figures onto the surface of a piece of paper and add a dimension not present in the sculpture - that of ambiguity.   The painter has the freedom to let an edge dissolve, to focus our attention on a neck, on a nostril, and leave other areas to be completed by our imaginations.   We participate in the making of the image.

Our first response to these extraordinary paintings is to enjoy the cinematic rhythm of the legs, the draperies, the bodies - the power of the overall composition.   However we are well repaid if we take the time to let our eyes graze slowly over the surface of the watercolor - to watch the artist pull the forms from the paper.   Her brush has caressed every contour.   Our eyes follow her hand as it guides the water over the rag paper leaving some spots dry, drenching others - always alive, always becoming.   Working back from the white of the paper, applying water and pigment, deepening the darks, she is excavating shadows much as a sculptor carves into a block of marble to reveal form.  

Two thousand years have taken their toll on the reliefs.   An elbow vanishes; a knee appears from nowhere.   But when we look at the sculptures we tend to overlook the missing fragments.   Our eyes skip over the gaps, and we ignore the background plane.   In the paintings every bit of marble - smooth or rough, intended or accidental - is examined and appreciated.   In one piece, erosion has laid bare the texture of the stone allowing figures to appear to emerge from the fractured shadows - like apparitions.   New stories arise.  

In their original locations on the Parthenon, these reliefs would have been shielded from the brilliant Greek sun - tucked up in the shadows high above our heads and illuminated only by indirect light from below - sunlight reflected up off the marble floor.   In the British Museum, however, a gentle London light drifts down, washing over the contours of the white Pentelic marble.   Artin has been able to capture the effect of this light using water to soften the shadows and grade the darks.   But as opposed to sculpture, the watercolors have a luminosity of their own, the reflection of light off the paper itself.   No matter how dense the wash, this radiance is never lost.

Wendy Artin's Parthenon Friezes are meditations on works of art that have haunted her for many years.    She is an artist of consummate skill, working in a medium over which she has complete control.   However this skill never calls attention to itself.   It is always used in service to the original sculptures.   In these paintings she has been able to demonstrate the sensitivity and precision of her observation, but more significant - even miraculous - she has been able to convey the depth of her feeling - her wonder, her admiration and her love for these ancient marbles.

Alexander Purves
Yale School of Architecture
October 2011

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North Frieze Block XLIII, Figures 118-20

We know they lived short lives in a world of slavery:

is this why their faces are so beautiful and grave,

one wearing a soft cap, pooled at his shoulders,

another naked, the line of his back

like a tornado's funnel, in a monochrome canter

riding into the gruel and blizzard of time

that by now has scoured their tack away,

the horses superb beneath three young men,

cheek pressed to throatlatch in a curve so powerful

it will never come unsprung, even in the explosion

of their own stalled momentum, veins on their bellies

and hocks and forearms standing in pure joy,

reined in at the last possible moment

before plunging off the edge into eternity?

Karl Kirchwey
October 2011

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Wendy Artin : COLUMNS

The brilliance of reflected sunlight, pools of luminous shadow - and throughout, a poignant awareness of passing time. Wendy Artin has always been a painter of light. Now she is engaging the richness of time as well.

An artist’s choice of motif is always revealing. Columns have been present in many of Artin’s studies of the Roman landscape, but with these new paintings – in particular those of solo columns, they have come into their own. Where they had been in conversation with other shapes, textures and historical fragments, these columns stand alone – proud and individual – as though Artin has been circling a subject that now demands her full attention. Rome’s ancient columns become her focus. As she herself notes, “This body of work emerged as a result of paintings on and about Hadrian. I discovered that what I was most interested in was the opus reticulatum and [the] columns, broken by the wear and tear of centuries. It is [their] massiveness and delicacy that I tried to capture… the effect of these strong yet fragile giants.” And perhaps this very contradiction is intriguing because it mirrors the dual paradox of the paintings themselves: they depict the columns’ solidity by using the most fragile of mediums and record the columns’ endurance with brush strokes that last no more than a moment.

Time has been implicit all along. In her paintings of nudes – especially those rapid watercolors that capture a fleeting posture – Artin’s technique matches the subject’s spontaneity. Both are caught up in the moment. The pose and the act of painting move together in synchronized rhythm. The dancer holds still – the brush acts quickly; the brush pauses – the dancer stretches and repositions. Looking at these paintings one is watching time unfold. The landscapes are also of the moment. Her use of monochrome emphasizes that the real subject of these paintings is light – patterns of sun and shadow. But one is always aware that the sun will move – or go under a cloud – and the patterns will change. The intense presence of that sunlit moment will be over.

Where the nudes and the landscapes capture a moment, these columns mine a richer vein. They speak of time, but time as a continuum that stretches from the carving of the marble up to the present moment. And what stories they have to tell – years of hectic activity followed by centuries of neglect, looting, rediscovery, archeological dispute, tourist snapshots – always weather. They speak as well of the act of building, of quarrying the ancient stone, of erecting the shafts and carefully positioning the entablatures, of carving capitals of such delicacy that enormous weight will appear to be borne by a basket of leaves. One senses their role in the original structure because the artist does not show us the column capital in decapitated isolation, but where it belongs – up in the air on top of its shaft, celebrating the tricky architectural transfer of a very heavy load from a horizontal beam to a vertical column.

Although her technique can have the momentum of calligraphy, each of these images is the product of countless patient hours of intense observation. It would be simply impossible to execute a watercolor of this complexity, size and detail in the field. However Artin always begins by making on site studies – in watercolor – in which she records values and overall composition, and surely captures her initial excitement. Because she has absorbed the experience so fully, Artin is able to carry this excitement into the
final, very large and scrupulously detailed watercolors.

The artist honors her subject with absolute fidelity. This means truth to the spirit of the subject as well as to its particulars. Although she has shown again and again that she is unexcelled when it comes to fluid but precise brushwork, she does not take this marble carving as an occasion for a bravura riff – as Tiepolo might have done. Their extraordinary beauty has drawn her to these columns, but she also feels deeply that they have lives of their own that must be respected and that ultimately the columns themselves remain more significant than their depiction.

History’s time is alive in these images, but immediate time is here as well – the moments of the artist’s experience of the place and of her crafting of the image. With her we feel the heat of the sun – the luminosity of Rome. The artist describes it best: “Hot stones, sounds of crickets, great stillness, sun revealing forms with shadows like puddles of clear watercolor. A gentle wind brings wafts of sun-baked plants, the same wind that for centuries has gradually worn away and rounded off the architectural shapes that seem eternal, in their great immobility”. That she can convey this atmosphere is a tribute to her sensitivity and to her skill. Wherever possible she lays down a single wash, so the light reflected off the paper is not lost and her careful marks appear spontaneous. Her control is such that she can coax the water and pigment into the most refined gradation of values. We can look into the shadows and discover forms defined by light reflected from below. Watercolor is unique in its capacity to record the act of painting, and as our eyes register the spots the brush has missed or where the water has made a puddle, we are watching the image come into being. Because Artin thinks in terms of values – of light and shade on surface – rather than in terms of line, her eye sees, and her hand can recreate, these crucial subtleties. Just compare these columns with those delineated by Ruskin.

And these columns also live in the moment when we look at the paintings. We participate in the making of the image – we complete it in our minds. Artin’s precision is perfectly calibrated. She knows when to pursue a detail and when to back off. Sometimes the edge of a form is distinct, sometimes it is blurred, sometimes – as when the brilliance of the sun dissolves the edge into the white of the paper – it isn’t there at all.

This inert marble is so filled with light, with life, with memory, that we are made to forget that, in the end, these are just stains on a piece of paper made by the strokes of a brush. We are stunned by the beauty of the image.

Alexander Purves
September 2009

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Wendy Artin: HADRIEN

L’éclat de la lumière du soleil reflétée, des zones d’ombre lumineuse – et dans toutes les œuvres, une perception saisissante du temps qui passe. Wendy Artin a toujours été une peintre de la lumière. Désormais, elle prend également en compte la richesse du temps.

Le choix d’un thème par un artiste est toujours révélateur. Après des années passées à peindre dans Rome et ses environs, Artin s’est rendu compte qu’il existait un fil conducteur entre tous les thèmes : le grand empereur Hadrien. Inspirée par l’opus reticulatum et les colonnes grecques cannelées de la Villa Adriana, elle a commencé une série d’aquarelles sur Hadrien, sa villa, son amant. Tel qu’elle le constate elle-même : « Ce qui m’intéressait le plus était l’opus reticulatum et les colonnes, brisés par l’usure du temps. C’est leur massivité et leur délicatesse que j’ai essayé de restituer … l’effet de ces géants à la fois forts et fragiles. » Et cette simple contradiction est peut-être intéressante, car elle est à l’image du double paradoxe des tableaux eux-mêmes : ils représentent la solidité des colonnes en utilisant le moyen le plus fragile et expriment leur résistance avec des coups de pinceau qui ne durent qu’un bref instant.

Le temps a toujours été implicite. Dans ses tableaux de nus, notamment ces aquarelles rapides qui représentent une pose éphémère, la technique d’Artin coïncide avec la spontanéité du sujet. Elles sont toutes deux saisies sur le vif. La pose et l’acte de peindre évoluent ensemble, à un rythme synchronisé. Le danseur reste immobile – le pinceau agit rapidement ; le pinceau s’arrête – le danseur s’étire et se replace. En regardant ces tableaux, l’on observe le temps qui défile. Les paysages sont également pris sur le moment. Son utilisation du monochrome met en évidence que la lumière constitue le véritable sujet de ces toiles – représentations du soleil et de l’ombre. Mais l’on a toujours conscience que le soleil bougera – ou sera couvert par un nuage – et que les représentations changeront. L’existence intense de ce moment ensoleillé sera terminée.

Alors que les nus et les paysages instantanés saisissent un moment, ces nouvelles colonnes, mosaïques et statues exploitent un filon plus riche. Elles évoquent le temps, mais le temps considéré comme un continuum qui s’étend de la sculpture du marbre jusqu’au moment présent. Que d'histoires elles ont à raconter au sujet d’Hadrien et de sa villa, des années de prestige suivies par des siècles d’oubli, de pillage, de redécouverte, de controverse archéologique et de clichés pris par les touristes ! L’esprit d’Hadrien, qui a parcouru le monde méditerranéen et voulu restituer ses souvenirs sur le versant d’une colline à Tivoli, y est toujours présent. Elles évoquent également l’acte de construction, d’extraction de la pierre ancienne, d’édification des fûts et de disposition avec minutie des entablures, de sculpture des chapiteaux avec une telle finesse que l’énorme poids aura l’air d’être supporté par un panier de feuilles. L’on décèle leur rôle dans la structure initiale car l’artiste ne nous montre pas le chapiteau de la colonne, pris isolément et décapité, mais l’ensemble auquel il appartient – jusque dans les airs au sommet de son fût, en exaltant le délicat transfert architectural d’une charge très lourde d’une poutre horizontale vers une colonne verticale.

Bien que sa technique puisse avoir le dynamisme de la calligraphie, chacune de ces images est le fruit d’innombrables heures d’observation intense. Il serait tout simplement impossible de réaliser une aquarelle avec cette complexité, cette taille et cette précision à l’extérieur. Cependant, Artin commence toujours par faire des esquisses sur place – à l’aquarelle – dans lesquelles elle saisit les valeurs et l’ensemble de la composition, et exprime sans doute sa première émotion.

Le temps de l’Histoire est vivant dans ces toiles, mais le temps présent s’y trouve également – les moments de l’expérience du lieu de l’artiste et de son art de la représentation. Nous ressentons avec elle la chaleur du soleil, la luminosité de Rome. L’artiste le décrit ainsi: « Pierres chaudes, chant des grillons, beaucoup de calme, le soleil qui révèle les formes avec des ombres comme des flaques d’aquarelle transparente. Un léger vent souffle sur les plantes brûlées par le soleil ; le même vent qui, pendant des siècles, a peu à peu érodé et parfait les formes architecturales qui semblent éternelles, dans leur grande immobilité. » Le fait qu’elle puisse restituer cette atmosphère témoigne de sa sensibilité et de son talent. Quand elle le peut, elle se limite a un seul lavis de sorte que la lumière reflétée en dehors du papier ne se perd pas et que ses tâches minutieuses semblent spontanées. Sa maîtrise est telle qu’elle parvient à faire de l’eau et du pigment le dégradé de valeurs le plus raffiné. Nous pouvons examiner les ombres et découvrir des formes définies par la lumière reflétée par-dessous. L’aquarelle est unique en égard à sa capacité de retracer l’acte de peindre, et comme nos yeux relèvent les endroits que le pinceau a manqués ou où l’eau a fait une flaque, nous assistons à la création de l’œuvre.

L’œuvre de l’artiste prend également vie au moment où nous regardons les tableaux. Nous participons à la création de la représentation, nous la complétons dans notre esprit. Sa précision est parfaitement ajustée. Elle sait quand elle doit s’attarder sur un détail et quand elle ne doit pas insister sur celui-ci. Le contour d’une forme est parfois distinct, parfois flou et parfois inexistant, comme lorsque la brillance du soleil le fond dans le blanc du papier.

Ce marbre inerte est tellement empreint de lumière, de vie, de mémoire, que nous sommes obligés d’oublier qu’au final, ce ne sont que des tâches sur un bout de papier réalisées par les coups d’un pinceau. La beauté de l’image nous bouleverse.

Alexander Purves
Septembre 2009

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excerpt of article

The Emergence of Tonal Drawing

      Very much the same thing can be said for Wendy Artin's
lovely figure studies in watercolor wash. Her response to
the patterns of light and shade as they hit and describe the
figure is so immediate that we feel we are looking at some-
truly in movement. Her models dance before us-
first they are there and then they are not. She expresses
their glow by marrying the light side of the figure with the
paper so that the form can emerge on the shadow side with
light and move as in a flash, a credible figure is described
underneath. Artin never loses the structure or compromises
the substantiality of her figures. This combination of
movement and palpability is what makes them so infinitely
sensuous and graceful.

Ephraim Rubenstein

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Light, Water, Stone: Metamorphosis at the Stadio dei Marmi

             The Fascist era Stadio dei Marmi of the Foro Italico is a setting that is loaded with complicated, often troubling historical associations, and as an artistic subject, with its stolid, stern and commanding marble statues of athletes, it might seem to be in need of someresuscitation. For Wendy Artin, the challenge of tackling the Fascist period's representation of "superman" was a logical segué from years of work focusing on the subject of the ideal male form. Her explorations have ranged from Greco-Roman heroes to the fluid mrble forms of Bernini to the lithe bodies of the young Roman dancers she has engaged as models. Her work at the Foro is perhaps the deepest engagement yet with this challenging subject and is resplendent with renewal and life!

             Built as the Foro Mussolini in 1933, the marble male athletes that Artin has chosen to paint surround a stadium that is the heart of a complex of buildings devoted to the glorification of the male athletic physique. Male physical presence and prowess were an important part of Il Duce's persona and by extensions were key to the program to raise up italy as the reincarnated third Rome. The complex resulted from a competition design by architect and master planner, Enrico del Debbio. The buildings, wrapped in a mild and brittle classicizing veneer, contain gymnasia and swimming pools, and are sorrounded by several exterior stadia and courts. the focus of it all on central axis and flanked by the other buildings, is Stadio dei Marmi ( stadium of marble statues ). Its form is an evocation of the circuses in acient Rome, where the victors of foreign conquest ended their celebratory processions through the city parading before the rules seated at sides in bleachers. Here the victors, frozen in marble, are now the spectators lining the perimeter of the stadium and have become super sized, growing to almost twice their height. The 60 statues were donated by the provinces and colonies of Italy and represent the tradional sports of the Olympic games. Their scale and their stern, blank facial expressions give them more than their share of gravitas.

How stunning then are Wendy Artin's dancing, flowing, liquid renditions of these Rocks of Gibralter! Whhile there is no doubt that the massive statues will ever move again (even though their subject is action and movement), Artin's images on the other hand would seem to be in constant metamorphosis and might take different poses were we to blink. I think this effect comes from the many years of work that Artin has done with live human models, who change their poses frequently and at times as often as every few minutes. This requuires on the part of the artist the ability to quickly capture the essence of the gesture.

Even though Artin's work in front of the permanent poses of the marmi involved sustained sessions lasting several hours at a time and sometimes several days on end, the results are neither labored nor static. It may be that the play of light, which accompanies the flowing sepia watercolor washes, is what animates these stationary forms most effectively. Light (and its corollary, conditions of shade and shadow) is the essential ingredient in Artin's world of graduated transparent monochrome washes. It is the dynamic transition in the same wash from clear water to intense pigment that tells the essential story of light and shadow. Bathed in light, the dead forms of stone are miraculously brought back to resemble human life and heroic movement. Like the childhood game, paper wraps stone, scissors cut paper, etc., Artin's washes envelop these forms with life allowing them to be the victors again!

Stephen Harby
Architect, FAAR '00

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Merveilleuse Wendy Artin,
Hier au soir, en sortant de la Galerie du Passage, vous avez oublié, entre deux miroirs fatigués, votre carton à dessins. Les chats du quartier sont venus délicatement le sentir, ils ont ronronné.
Quand la nuit a envahi la Galerie Véro-Dodat, que la petite lumière du réverbère de la rue a permis aux ombres des gros barreaux du portail fermé de s'étirer sur le carrelage noir et blanc; une farandole de dessins de vos jouets est sortie de votre carton.
Quelle surprise ! Quelle émotion ! Quel plaisir !
Vous avez donc retrouvé et dessiné, avec votre pinceau magique, vos jouets d'autrefois et ceux d'aujour d'hui. Ce monde ludique et international est immarcescible et nous sommes émus en 2005 de le retrouver, ravis que vous nous le fassiez voir et heureux de le regarder.
Poupées et bébés en chiffon, animaux légendaires, marionettes, ballons, crayons, vous accompagnez Alice, Pinocchio, la gentille poupée Raggedy Ann, et vous nous faites rêver.
Wendy Artin vous êtes une bonne fée.

Robert Capia
Expert international en poupées et jouets anciens

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The Italian phrase "dare alla luce"--"to give to the light"--is an oddly perfect way to describe what Wendy was doing when she was preparing to give birth to Lily and creating these paintings of us, her models.

To pose for Wendy is a strange and beautiful revelation of the form that light takes on a person, of the memories that are evoked by each position of the body. A position can express a state of mind, or the recollection of a faraway image, or a purely physical memory, which sometimes returns to you when you least expect it. I remember the sense of waiting, of suspension, of happiness, palpable in the studio during the days that Wendy was pregnant with Lily: Even common poses were different, as though the very concept of femininity had become more rich, more ample.

Each day there was the possibility that one moment or another we could be surprised by the arrival in the studio of little Lily. I remember Wendy with a luminous look, armed with brushes and paper, climbing the stairs happily but with difficulty, stretching out on the floor during the break to rest her back. There was heightened accuracy in her drawing, in the way she gathered the details and curves of bodies that seem to be waiting for something larger than themselves. On the street too Wendy's movements were slower and softer, tensed to contain, to preserve: creating a body, this time not with a paintbrush. I realized that women are lucky to be able to be creative in so many ways that do not exclude each other but, on the contrary, enhance each other and give one another life.

Modelling has enriched my work as an actress with new and strong images that come to me from the force that I have come to recognize in my body through looking at Wendy's drawings. They have made me feel more positive towards my body, because although the beauty of her paintings is the fruit of Wendy's art and of her way of perceiving reality, they show how many different facets that which is called beauty can have, and how much beauty is indeed made of light.

Laura Riccioli

Posing for Wendy... The hours that I pose for Wendy are spent in an atmosphere that we often forget in our daily lives, running from one place to another trying to fulfill our dreams.

I never look at Wendy while I pose for her, but sense her concentrated gaze passing over the details of my body, listening to the words my body speaks. It is like a dialogue between two actors on stage, a dialogue made not of words but of eyes, of pauses, of silences. The lines of my body search for the light, for the feeling that will make them different and new to Wendy's eyes, hands and paper. The struggle to find each new pose can be complete only through the regard of the other, of Wendy, of her paintings, in which I find myself transformed but unique. I have the sensation that we are writing a poem together, and I learn to be patient, to listen to the time of the drawing, the time of the pose. It is a profound exchange, made very pleasant by the concentration, by the music, and also by the breaks between the poses during which, a bit stunned, as though coming out of a long dream, we remember who we are.

The period in which Wendy was pregnant was the most intense moment of my experience as a model. That period was marked by waiting: waiting for the life that was taking form inside her, waiting for the painting to emerge on the paper. When Lily was then born, seeing her I had an unforgettable feeling, I looked at her and thought of how she had been present in all those moments, and how perhaps somewhere inside she carried with her the memory.

Tamara Bertolini

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On Wendy Artin's Watercolors:

From the moment I first saw Wendy Artin working I knew I was watching something extraordinary. It is not often, as an artist, that you see another artist's work and think this is something you couldn't do. Mostly you think you could do it but you don't want to. With Wendy it was different. She was doing something I very much want to do but can't. I have never seen such grace, such sureness, so much sexy pleasure from the hand of a living artist. It is hard for the lay person to comprehend the difficulty she has mastered in her life-drawings. The complexity of forms of the human figure is well known and the mark of a talented artist, like that of the exceptional athlete, is the appearance of ease with which they execute their task. No one could know from looking at Wendy's watercolors that these remarkable figure studies were done within the three minutes the model holds the pose. To watch her work is to watch a master. She gets all the anatomy, all the movement, and as well, imbues her subjects with a luminosity that is the special light of Rome. Her gift is this illumination, this glow, that animates the human form and argues for its divine creation.

Eric Fischl

Many people draw, and draw well, with charcoal, watercolor, pencil, ink; but few people draw well with paper itself. The ability of an artist to allow the paper to afford light to a subject is one of the great underused aspects of contemporary drawing. When it happens, it means that the artist is seeing the subject within the space of the paper itself, which is a potentially deep and lively space, as Wendy Artin proves in her masterful work. This quickened sense of the paper-as-light, manipulated by the skillful shadow and volume of her watercolors or charcoals, make her work alive like few other artists. Whether flesh, stone, or landscape is being depicted, the sheer pleasure of weight and shadow and volume resonating in her materials is a dream come true for another artist like myself, a kind of realism that compels delight and wonder.

April Gornik

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Rome is not a classics factory, but it is a gold mine. Its usefulness to painting is like its constant re-appearence in architecture--an appearance that is maligned by some, but recognized as full of possibility by others. Writing about the neo-classicists McKim Mead & White, the architecture critic Paul Goldberger once observed, ."These architects were fundamentally non-ideological--this is the most important lesson their work holds for us now. They did not design in terms of theories and dogmas; they believed in looking at the past to assist them in evolving forms that would respond to their needs of the present... They also believed, as did many of their peers, that there was no inherent conflict between historical form and modern technology."

The same can be said about Wendy Artin's painting. It is non-ideological, but infused with the shapes and forms that may have been originally classical but are now simply a means to an end. Having lived in Rome in recent years, and painted many pictures of contemporary subjects--a motorino, a bus, a graffiti-covered wall--Wendy Artin concentrates in this exhibition on the timeless: the human figure, the Roman ruin, the vegetables of the Campo de' Fiori. In so doing, she allows us to see again why the classical vocabulary is inexhaustible.

Being in Rome slows us all down, turns us all into painters, and reminds us all of what classicism contributes to the built world. Wendy takes the same views that attract us all--the umbrella pine, the solitary column, the river god--and turns them into images we recognize but feel we have never really seen before. They are familiar but alive, fresh, and inevitable.

Writing in In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-Air Painting, the art critic John Russell remarked, "Everything in Rome has been built for the sake of painters." And Wendy Artin is made for Rome, with its agelessness, its heat, its complete passivity. She travels by bicycle with a slim folder of equipment slung over her shoulder and alights in one of the city's great piazze as though it had been built specifically for her eye to behold. Artin paints day in and day out, sometimes working on the same view, or the same statues, or the same dilapidated fountain over and over. You have the feeling that Artin has studied what she has chosen to paint and composed it in her mind, so that when she arrives at her destination, she can simply jump in. She has chosen her paper carefully--it is made of banana, jute, or some other textured, thick material that has the raggedy shape or found quality that makes it seem to belong to Rome's aeternitas. Her marks on that paper can be perfectly representational or completely abstract. They can seem three-dimensional or almost calligraphically spare. She does not sketch first or test the water in any way. She dives in.

She dives in, and she seems to burrow into her paper, disappear into it even. Then she comes back to our world with a catch: a fish, glimmering and wet; a cabbage, effusive, filling the page; or, at her absolute best, a human figure, or a ruin, or a moment of light still making its way to us, and by her act of catching it, rendered eternal.

Looking at Artin's paintings makes us understand why those who are loved have their portraits commissioned by those who love them, because once they are caught, they exist forever, or at least for as long as the picture lasts. It is an act of love. And Wendy Artin painting Rome, catching it this way, is an act of love. If the problem of art is to make something alive, in whatever language it takes to be understood, she has succeeded by inventing a language that has classical roots but a visceral immediacy. From these lovely watercolors, we understand more about painting and more about Rome; we understand more about its timeless pull on us, and more about what the Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen had in mind when she wrote, "...if my discoveries are other people's commonplaces, I cannot help it--for me they retain a momentous freshness... What has accumulated in this place acts on everyone, day and night, like an extra climate."

Adele Chatfield-Taylor FAAR '84
President, American Academy in Rome


The Image

What are we looking for when we see a film, a painting, a pencil sketch, or a watercolor? It is something rarely if ever found in an oil painting. An instant... spontaneous and compelling. Not a calculated, adjusted, scraped off, repainted, preconceived version. A reaction of the artist to something that they see, that they have searched for and found, that bears with it an emotional impact. Piazzetta's sketch of his young wife, seen from slightly behind, her hair in disarray... he had to have been in love to have captured this utterly unpremeditated image.

And so it is for us when we look at the work of Wendy Artin, constantly changing, searching, a vision of light never confined by lines. A vision that is not premeditated, that has not been adjusted to fit a preconceived notion of how it should be...

For us, these are the essential attributes of visual communication which, to our astonishment, are all but ignored by the commercial and academic world of "Art". Whether it be painting or film.

Enjoy this extraordinary talent.

Richard Leacock and Valerie Lalonde

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Wendy Artin's sepia watercolors of the human figure and the Roman landscape attain such a liquid purity of form that it is as if they flow from some artist's philosopher's stone. She transmutes solid flesh and stone into a heady, molten ambrosia. She has the talent to make the most difficult of exploits look easy - a few brushstrokes, sharp here, soft there, a spot of darkness, a blur of paleness, and voila, a sculpted body bathed in light emerges from the page, an ancient aqueduct winks brightly by a stand of pines.

Besides her mastery of technique, Artin displays an adventuresome playfulness within classical confines. Her subjects - the naked human figure, antique Rome - are timeless. The figures stand alone, with backgrounds only if necessary to define a contour, and shadows only to give a body weight.

Often they resemble drawings by Renaissance masters. But the poses are energetic, sometimes even off-balance, and she executes them rapidly, sometimes in under a minute, giving them a vigorous immediacy. The landscapes include only trees and buildings. Some have the precise details, down to individual bricks, tiles, and lattices, of a Canetti, while others bathe in impressionistic waviness.

But she always picks out the precise touches of light and shadow that convey the whole, while paying attention to the subtlety of middle tones that gives texture to the surfaces. It feels as if you could step into the scenes - and find yourself in an airy, golden space.

Noemi Giszpenc

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This statement was written by Wendy Artin to accompany her 1996 show at the Boston Public Library IN ART.

After decorating a careful magic marker contour drawing I had made of my sneakers with little shoes drawn the way everyone did at age 7, I was indignant when my parents thought that Miss Kornblue, the teacher, had drawn the best sneaker. From candle-making to calligraphy, music, dance and art, my parents put us in all the classes, banned the television, took us abroad, taped up our drawings, commissioned their friend Janii to paint a lush English countryside mural in the front hall. By junior high I was drawing live models in neighborhood livingrooms and statues in the Museum of Fine Arts with Andy Serbick; in high school the highlight of my week was the muscular overlays in Anatomy with Joe Capacetti at the Museum School; I stayed awake late nights drawing.

The summer before college I had the first of many painting classes with Miroslav Antic, who taught me to look for the color behind the local color, to keep the marks making the illusion rich and exciting, and who welcomed me in his classes during my college breaks, a wonderful teacher. As a French Lit major at the University of Pennsylvania I discovered "mass drawings", covering the entire page with charcoal and then rubbing out the lights with a soft eraser. At the Pennsylvania Academy the technique was to gently shade, in the direction of the light, everything but the brightest spot (top of the head), then everything but the next brightest and so on until finished. Although I changed classes rather than lose precious model time on this method, I still love the way it makes the pencil or charcoal be the atmosphere, gently dissipating light.

At the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Férit Iscan's drawing studio always had two models. One held the same pose each morning or afternoon for the entire week, the other did a variety of shorter poses. There was ample time to draw the models from different angles, do expressive sketches, return to previous drawings refreshed: I cannot imagine a better set-up. Two days each week the teachers appeared and treated us to coffee and critiques, encouraging experimental mark-making and the suggestion of light and atmosphere rather than the rendering of detail. The first summer in Paris I wanted to paint my own souvenir street scenes to bring home, and ended up with a lot of atmospheric drawings of French cars. The car series eventually led to my wall series, and many years of sitting on sidewalks and painting, trying to capture the urban landscape. The Boston Public Library has two of these early street paintings, a typically French Blue Door (1987) from Paris, and an inky taxi from the yellow cab repair yard below my Cambridge apartment (1987).

I spent five years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston in the Masters program, studying mostly with Miroslav Antic and Lou Gipetti, and for one year teaching a class of my own. The loose structure was perfect: in cycles I would work at home or at school, sometimes surprised when it closed for summer vacation, making use of the models, the teachers, the printing press, the student shows, the luxury of being where everyone is busy making art. Lou Gipetti drew so fluidly that it was almost worth not drawing to watch. Henry Schwartz's lyrical oil wash paintings were an inspiration. Henry introduced me to Sinclair Hitchings and the Boston Public Library collection of drawings.

It was at the Museum School that I began to work in transparent oil paint on rabbit-skin glued paper, trying to recreate the effect of monoprints without the press, of greasy paint smearing descriptively over a smooth surface. I would work into inky washes and stark brushstrokes with a stiff brush dipped in turpentine. One of my preferred subjects was statues on buildings, their inanimate obscurity giving me freedom to imagine and paint the people who had been the models, the idea for the statue, the light, the gesture (Cherub 1990). Real people I would try to see either as epic statues or the way their mother did, and paint that, as in "The Model"(1989).

After graduation and six months in Paris I moved to New York, where a friend brought me to the cast hall of the New York Academy, a large room with classical statues on wheels, spotlights, easels and barely a student: it was like a private museum. I wanted to do big beautiful drawings that nobody does any more, using the charcoal like a paintbrush, combining the marks and energy of a gestural sketch with focussed details, and with areas of such spare suggestions of volume that alone they make no sense, yet within context they pop out, 3-D, like the foot in "Crouching Venus" (1992). Back and forth across the studio I would move the easel, to have the focus in the drawing jump the way it does when one knows a face well, from far away to suddenly close, subjective. After lovingly drawing the blushing ear of the Discobole (1992) with my head cocked to the side, I noticed that everyone who came to look at the drawing leaned over, too.

The absurdly time-consuming pencil drawings that I continue to do, winters, are quite similar to the charcoals. I try to have the mark move over the paper as though it is moving over the surface of the marble belly or the garlic press, like a rubbing. The drawings should have about as much illusion as a bas-relief, not really supposed to fool you. In New York I calculated that even if every pencil drawing in a show of mine were to sell, the costs of the show would not be met, so, embracing a career as an oil painter I painted my "Pencils in Oil" (1993) and put them away. Then I put the oils away and took my watercolors to Mexico and Guatemala.

Summers I like to be outside. Often it takes ages to find the perfect wall to paint, not because none have been nice enough, but because it is a nice day for a walk. Painting the exemplary or the unusual wall gives me a new way of seeing the city, of travelling, of meeting people, of using many colors. I chose the "Positive Wall" (1995) because it was pink, with hearts and a sign saying do park here, fun to paint and funny, a visible voice. Watercolor travels well, trapping dirt and soot only until the paint is dry, allowing me to sit in very grubby places. It lends itself to wall paintings almost organically, washing like the rain, dripping like a stain, spreading like graffitti, and painting like paint over everything but a skinny edge of light. Perfect for meticulous realistic posters and wild abstract washes of colour, it is also easy to put away quickly in times of need, for instance when the small man with the large machete wanted dollars. Painting walls through New York, Paris, Mexico, Guatemala and Rome led to many adventures, an odd friendly feeling about facades, and my first big show in Paris at the Galerie Jaquester in 1993.

After the symbolism of Mexican art, I wanted to be reimmersed in the tradition of naturalism. I went to Rome to look at statues and walls, spent months painting an English street person, and finally discovered that when in Rome, one paints Rome. Loose yet delicate landscapes were a liberating challenge, and the trees, domes and walls of Rome endlessly absorbing. With sepia watercolor evaporating in the dazzling Roman sun I tried to perfect the puddle, as masses of parasol pines (Villa Borghese 1995) or as shadows on the statues of the Piazza Navona, my models (Neptunes 1994, 1995). I painted these statues over and over, discovering the beauty of a wet ghost image beneath a crisp wash, how to bleed one edge of the puddle into volume, the way it is to have a brush totally loaded or almost dry, the happy accident of an incidental drop. The paintings from Rome led to my second big show in Paris, at the Galerie du Passage in 1996.

To paint and draw figuratively is to pay tribute to the beauty that I see. It is a way to remember, to explore, to stare for hours at a person I do not want to know without seeming strange. In invaluable contrast to galleries, the Boston Public Library Print Department collects one-of-a kinds and series with equal enthusiasm. This eclectic appreciation has given me a tremendous sense of artistic freedom and timelessness, with which I have been able to pursue such unique treasures as the "Poire Bizarre" (1995), a natural wonder. I am honored to be a part of the Boston Public Library collection. I cannot thank enough my marvellous family, for their constant support.

Wendy Artin

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To contact the artist send email to:

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Wendy Artin is represented by:

Gurari Collections at 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, Massachusetts, 02118, tel: 1.617.367.9800, email:

Galerie du Passage at 20-26 Passage Vero-Dodat, 75001, Paris, France, tel:, email:

The Arion Press at 1802 Hays Street, The Presidio, San Francisco, California, 94129, tel: 1.415.668.2542, email:

Kantar Fine Arts at 382 Kenrick Street, Newton, Massachusetts, 02458, tel: 1.617.332.7495, email:
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Here are some web sites of interest:

Escoda artist brushes, Barcelona, Spain

bicycle paintings by Taliah Lempert

Drawing Center, Portfolio of Wendy Artin

website of Grace Dane Mazur

paintings by April Gornik

paintings by Eric Fischl

blog on art and design by Danielle Boudrot, with several posts on Wendy Artin

Art of Watercolor blog by Russian artist Konstantin Sterkhov

website of drawings by women of women

website of paintings by women of women

paintings by Harriet Bell

paintings by Matthew Cornell

paintings by Deborah Paris

paintings by Tom Paquette

paintings by Stephen Harby

paintings by Gregory Becker

Laura Riccioli's website

American Academy in Rome School of Fine Arts

photographs by Thomas Artin

Bikeworks NYC

Tate + Burns Architects

paintings by Guan Weixing

paintings by Israel Herschberg

website of Ricky Leacock

Urban Sketchers website