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  • 365 Faces / Day 143 - Andrew Wyeth

    We live in a small world linked together through infinite memories. They connect us, often unaware to each other. Reading Peter Ralston’s story reminded me of my first and lifelong memory about Andrew Wyeth.

    I never met Wyeth, nor even knew of his work beyond isolated images that left me cold despite his renown. Until, in late summer of '88 I came face-to-face with Wyeth’s most personal work: The Helga Series exhibited at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. The work shocked me into awe of both passion and prowess of the Man and the Artist behind the famous name. Eventually it propelled me down my own creative path.

    Wyeth's paintings reflected deep emotional link between an artist and his model. Helga is shown as a treasure, to be preserved alive, on canvas, forever. A modern day Galatea to his Pygmalion.

    The Helga oil portraits are detailed to the point of insanity. The depth of the artist's devotion shows through the effort he invested into her smallest details. Every hair, eyelash, and skin pore is rendered in hyperrealism that is maddeningly systematic, painstakingly accurate and all consuming.

    For 15-years Wyeth worked on and hid from everyone including his wife these masterpieces and his commitment to capturing the essence of Helga.

    It must have been complicated.

    Wyeth's hard, weathered features in Peter’s photo come across as a mask of a man that found and followed a great passion while fiercely shielding it. I see his face as a haunting map of that long journey.

    What started and kept him going?

    The few watercolors in the exhibit revealed an impulsive side of the perfectionist Andrew. Unlike the hyper-tight oil paintings, the huge watercolors were dynamically, gloriously spontaneous. No hesitation, no regrets, these works looked like a daring impulsive pursuit of a personal bliss.

    NEVER before had I seen watercolors like these. Deep beneath Wyeth’s steady hand and stony expression I saw a raging fire furiously branding his dancing brushstrokes onto a watercolor board. Like no other, Wyeth mastered this most challenging medium. He attacked his blank page with a fiercely flying brush and landed it JUST RIGHT EVERY TIME!

    His watercolors touched my imagination like no other art and inspired me to run full speed towards my own creative calling.

    So here is my homage to and image of Andrew, the Man within the Artist, inspired by Peter's photo and story. I leave in-between spaces for you to fill in.

    Unlike you Peter, I have no memories of walks with Andrew Wyeth on a beach in Maine, nor do I know his sound, touch, or physical presence. But seen through a prism of his art, I have my life-lasting personal impression of a complicated, great man behind a galloping brush.

    Dedicated to Andrew Wyeth and Peter Ralston
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