What inspires Catherine Welshman? PoJo – March 1, 2013
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For the past 20 years, my artwork has been divided between making actual paintings on stretched canvas or wood, along with the cutout work in which the figures physically leave the background and hang on their own.
I love to paint. There is nothing more satisfying then when a painting is finished, complete in form, color, texture, image and seductiveness. Although I have been painting in oils for more than 30 years, the cutting and escape of the figure began to develop in the early 1990s when I was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. I have always been interested in painting the figure, its beauty combined with a certain untold darkness. The need for escaping the background began out of sheer frustration on what to actually do with it. I became so involved in creating a character that the background was just getting in the way. This is when the scissors and X-Acto knives began to come out.
Although it seems like it would be easy enough to free the figure in this way, this step is only the beginning.
Never have I taken the direct flat cutout as a finished piece. Instead, I find myself dismantling and constructing the image to make yet another form. I rarely use the same painting to complete the new figure.
Over the years, I have developed quite a collection of scraps, body parts, arms, legs, heads and painted surfaces that become small treasures to me.
For the most part, the work is made up of other oil paintings or drawings, materials I have made.
I also use real hair in some of my work. Due to the vast amount of changes in hair color that I change frequently, I can collect blonde, red or dark hair. My daughter’s hair is also convenient and meaningful in my work. I glue and sew the pieces together in a playful and experimental way until I find what I want, similar to putting together parts in a puzzle. The cutouts are mostly women revealing their dark emotional complexities combined with a strange beauty. By cutting and reconstructing the work I am also taking apart the classic sense of the portraiture and its historical image of beauty. I often think of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” written by Oscar Wilde, where the figure and the painting deteriorate until you are left with the underneath, the innards and the truth of what makes up the person.
Catherine Welshman operates Mad Dooley Gallery, named for her grandmother Madeleine “Mad” Dooley, in Beacon. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Welshman earned a master’s of fine arts degree from Parsons School of Design in 1998.
She lives in Beacon with her daughters, Ellery and Ila. Visit www.catherinewelshman.com.