Now through October 1, RJD Gallery in Bridgehampton is showcasing “Kiss and Tell,” featuring the works of Mary Jane and Kris Lewis. It’s a world where the eyes and smiles will only tell so much, but some things are better left a secret. Artist Mary Jane resides in the United Kingdom. She met Richard Demato, owner of RJD Gallery, when he sought out her work personally for his collection.
Who are the people in your images?
I tend to work with a small group of models over a period of time and the paintings are a combination of old and new muses. The model for Antiope, for example, is a young woman that I have been working with for about five years or so. I met her when she was just 13 and even then, I was so inspired by the very special quiet strength and energy she possessed, which, along with the characteristics she embodies in my paintings, have developed and become more complex as she’s grown older.
While the theme for a body of work comes from my own narratives, themes have recurred in my work, like the birds, which symbolize a message passed either from the subconscious or from nature. My models inspired the direction of the works here, their costume and accessories selected as symbols of the characteristics that I see in them.
Has there been a subject you’ve painted but decided not to use? Why?
Thankfully, it’s usually evident fairly early on if an idea isn’t working. If not, it can be very frustrating to feel enthusiasm dissipate into an idea that flounders, but sometimes the energy to pursue an image just fades away.
In every body of work, there are a few pieces that don’t work for one reason or another. I’ll either paint over them so I can, almost literally, draw a line under them, or I’ll put them to one side for a few months and revisit them if another, better solution comes to me.
Describe to me your artistic process, from concept to final viewing.
Over time, I’ve developed my own personal lexicon of symbols and imagery, and ideas for them come to me as I’m researching a subject. Images can come to me in dreams, or very often while reading in that half-state between waking and sleep. I’ll make some very simple thumbnail sketches, then begin to put together the costume and objects, perhaps find a location, color palettes, lighting, and which model to use.
Once I set up the scene, I’ll take hundreds of photographs. As the models interact I can develop the idea further, bringing in those serendipitous moments that add so much to the meaning and effect of the final works. Then, I’ll take those reference shots along with studies, drawings, and other found reference and begin to piece together the images.
It can take time for the strongest to reveal themselves, but often they jump out, demanding attention first. I begin to draw out the work, and as it emerges, changes or additions can be made till the balance of composition and focus feels right. I’ll paint in layers, some full-bodied color, then transparent glazes, letting each dry, working on multiple pieces at once so they live with each other and I can feel the group take shape. Once finished, they’re displayed in my drying room waiting to be varnished and framed, and I start to see them more as a viewer might.
What emotion do you feel is most difficult to hide?
What gives a person away most?
It’s in the eyes every time.
What do you hope viewers glean from this exhibit?
One of the things I value most is to hear from viewers who have connected in a very personal way to the subjects or sitters in my work — that they stir an emotion or a memory for them that they then share with me. It’s a language that taps into something very personal and goes beyond every day revelations. In a way it becomes part of the story of the work for us both.
RJD Gallery is located at 2385 Main Street in Bridgehampton. Call 631-725-1161 or visit www.rjdgallery.com.