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M aya Ko e n i g Por traits of Memor y & Stor ytelling

May, 4 2012


M aya K o e n i g Por traits of Memor y & Stor yte lling Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s 1 A r t i st S t at ement 2 Por traiture as Memor y 4 Po r t rai t ur e a s Stor ytelling 6 Mat er i al s & Content 8 C u t out : M o lly 10 I mpast o: Cinque Ter re 12 I mpast o: Google Street V iew s 14 H ybr i d of Fla t a nd Impas to : V i c 16 Rel evanc e: Aud ience 18 Rel evanc e: Wor ks by Other Ar t i s t s

Letraset: T, Letraset on Paper, 8x10 inches


A r t i s t St a t e m e n t Po r t r a i t s a r e a n o u t l e t fo r nostalgia. Almost a lw ay s , t h e p o r t r a i t s I a m dr awn to are t h o se o f p e o p l e w h o o nc e lived close to m e . C u r r e n t ly i n my wo r k , my s ubjects are my peer s f ro m my s e me s te r a b r oad in Cor tona, It a ly. Po r t r a i t s o f c e r t a i n i ndividuals are my w ay b a c k i n t o my ow n m e mor y, and the feelin g s a nd the mo o d o f t hat tim e and p lace . Po r t r a i t s a r e a l s o a fo r m o f stor ytelling. What s t o r y c a n we a s s u m e j u s t with the infor mation o f a c r o p p e d f r a m e o f a woman looking u p w a r d w i t h h e r m o u t h o p en? That intr igue i s o n ly h e i g h t e n e d w h e n a second per son is f a c t o red i nto t he f r ame . A s the stor yteller, I g e t c a u g h t i n t h e n a r r a t i ve that exists in t h e spa c e b e twe e n the i nd i vid uals. In these po r t r a it s , t he s u b j e c t i s t he sp ace b etween, t h e per s o n i fi c ati o n o f a fe eling ( tension, i n t i m a c y, l o n g i n g , r e j e c t i o n ) that is passing bet we en the i nd i vi d ual s .

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I n reference to my audience , I am constantly addressing an over arching question of duality. How do I satisfy my need to indulge in the memor ies , feelings and stor ies of sp ecific p eop le and pl a c es, whi l e st i l l offer i ng something for the viewer to find meaning in? I tr y to answer with duality; I make a moment with a par ticular individual seem gener al as well as sp ecific , fa mi l i a r a nd yet a mbi g uous. Star ting with the topic of nar r ative between individuals that I do know, I attempt the question of anonymity; will I get the same satisfaction out of images of inter actions between str anger s? Pulling from the common thread of the town I lived in, to connect between my ima ges and the images of str anger s, I choose snapshots of passerbys on Go o gle Str e e t V i ew o f C o r t ona , a nd st i l l find myster y and beauty in similar moments b etween str ange r s.


Portraiture as Memory glance . To paint from a photogr aph is to build a new relationship with the memor y that that ind ivid ual’s p or tr a i t evokes. Pa i nt i ng s t a ke t he memor y of a photogr aph from its ephemer al state and br ing it back into the wor ld through the exper ience of process, a process that could take m onths t o c ompl et e . Throug h t hi s pr actice I revisit the memor y with a new palette , and br ing imager y into focus with new ideas on m ar k making. I also live with the exper ience of the process outside of the studio, thinking about the cur rent por tr ait or new wor ks that I wa nt t o c rea t e of more o l d m em or ies.

B efo re I c o n s i d e r e d my s e l f a visual ar tist, I iden t ifi e d as a c l as s i c a l p i anist. For 10 yea r s I h a d a d ai ly r e g i me n of 1-2 hour s of pr a c t ic in g, we e kly l e s s o n s , a nd sever al r ecitals a n d c o mp e t i t i o n s annual ly. Although a gr eat fo c u s o f p i a no w a s o n the per for m ance itself, o f t en t im e s l a s ti n g n o l o n g er than 15 m inutes, my t r u e l ove fo r p i a no w a s in the 6-9 m onth exper ienc e o f l e a r n i ng a c o m p osition. A s a r e s u l t o f my t r a i n i n g i n a classical p e r fo r m a n c e a r t , my w h o l e wor k ethic in life h a s a lw ay s b e e n c e n t e r e d on the satisfaction o f t h e p r o c e s s t h a t l e a d s t owards an end re su lt . W hat r e a l ly matte r s for m e , in b oth p i a n o a n d n ow a r t i s t h e feeling of being lost i n t h e p r o c e s s o f c r e a t i n g and developing my t e c h n iq ue .

T he end r esult may seem t o a l l ude t o a different message , not one of process but one of idolization of the subject matter. In a sense , I am idolizing the ever yday individuals like Kir stin and V i ctor i a, who have impacted my life . I n addition, I am looking to revive the feeling and meaningful moments with those ind ivid uals.

W h e n t r y i n g t o u n d e r s t a n d why I am dr awn t o p a i n t i n g p o r t r a i t s a s a n outlet for reliving my m e m o r i e s , I r e a l i ze t h a t like piano, it is the p r o c e s s t h a t i s t h e t r u e m otivation. I t is one t h in g t o r e c a l l me mo r y t hr ough p hotogr ap hy; t h a t s o r t o f r e c o l l e c t i o n e xists as a single t h o u g h t , a d ay d r e a m o r f a ntasy, and soon en o u g h d i s a p p e ar s t he w ay it cam e as a

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Kirstin, Oil on Paper, 9x12 inches

Victoria, Oil on Panel, 12x16 inches 3


P o r t r a i t u r e a s St o r y t e l l i n g cur rent per sonal nar r ative . Similar to how film or theatre use char acter s and stor ylines to validate the feelings and exper iences of the audience , these visual stor ies are my way of validating the viewer’s per sonal exp er iences.

A ny t im e a fi g ur e i s r e fe r e nced in im ager y, p e o p l e a r e n a t u r a l ly d r i ve n to make sense o f t h e sc e ne by i n c o r p o r ating p er sonal n a r r a t i ve . T h e r e fo r e , I s e e por tr aiture as a fo r m o f s t o r y t e l l i n g t h r o u g h imager y. When t h i s b r i dg e i s c r e a t e d b e t ween my per sonal n a r r a t i ve a n d o n e t h a t t h e viewer is able to c r e a t e , I fe e l my a r t wo r k h as accomplished so m e t h in g s i gni fi c a nt.

U nder standing por tr aiture as stor ytelling inspired this semester’s body of wor k of alter ing levels o f v i sua l a mbi g uousness and sp ecificity to a l l ow for per sona l connection and na r r a t i ve from t he a udi enc e . Investigations in c l uded a t t empt s wi t h images where I may not have connected to the figur e , but r a t her wi t h t he set t i ng , a s seen in the Go o g l e S treet V i ew pa i nt i ng s o f Cor tona. Other a t t empt s have been wi t h var ying filtr ations (mar k making and color palette choice) of per sonal images to create ambiguity and more room for audience inter pretation. I n ever y attempt, the level of per sonal and univer sal connection is assessed w ith the goal of c rea t i ng a ba l a nc e bet ween fulfilling my need for a meaningful exper ience of reconstr ucting memor y, and offer ing a window for the audiences’ own meaningful nar r ative .

T h i s n o ti o n o f p o r t r a i t u r e ser ving as a p l a t fo r m fo r i n t e r p r e t i ve s tor ytelling and o pen -end e d me ani n g c a me ab out after an e x p e r i e n c e I h a d w i t h t wo par ticular viewer s o f M ol l y . I w a s a p p r o a c h e d by two older I t a l i a n m e n w h o s p o ke l i t t l e E nglish, to tell m e t h a t Mo l ly me a nt “s o much” to them . U n t il t h a t p o i n t I ne ve r s aw p or tr aitur e as a ny t h i n g bu t a s e l fi s h p r o c ess of creating for my ow n ne e d to r e l i ve a mem or y. H aving t wo st r a nge r s v al i d a ti n g t he m eaningfulness o f p o r t r a i t ur e t hr o ugh t he connections they m a d e w i t h t h e i r p e r s o n a l nar r ative , redefined my i n c e n t i ve fo r m a k i n g p or tr aits. A year l a t e r, I w i t n e s s e d t h e s a m e connection being m a de a t my s o l o BFA s h ow w ith a fr iend fr om Ja pa n wh o c o nne c te d H o t e l I n d igo to his own

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Molly, Oil on Panel, 12x16 inches

Via Benedetti, Oil on Paper, 9x12 inches

Hotel Indigo Oil on Canvas 11x16 inches 5


M at e r i a l s & C o n t e n t T he Go o gle Str e et V i ew pa i nt i ng s (S noopy’s Ge lato, V ia Be n e detti ) also use this technique but with images of str anger s confronting the viewer, and little i nfor ma t i on fro m t he set t i ng .

Wo r k i n g i n o i l s i s t h e b e s t medium when dea lin g w i t h me mo r y, a s i t can b e as op aq ue o r t r a n s l u c e n t , a s v i v i d o r f aded as a memor y t e n d s t o b e . I e x p l o r e t h e boundar ies of a m b i g u i t y ve r s u s s p e c i fi c i t y through different “ filt er s” o f mar k- maki n g t e chniq ues.

The third filter is a har sh hybr id between a flat, soft, photo-realistic style and impasto p ainting. T his is mo st a ppa rent ly seen i n V i c, w her e the d ivid e bet ween t he t wo t ec hni ques create an illusion of the depth of field in a lar ge ap er tur e pho t og r a ph.

T h e fi r s t a t t e m p t i s t h r o u g h constr ucting the fig u re u s i n g s h a p e s and s atur ated color s. M ol l y i s a t r a n s fo r m a t i ve p i ece that can c o n n e c t w i t h t he g e ne r a l p ublic thr ough the a m b i g u i t y o f t h e s i l h o u e t t e s, even though it is a sc en e o f fo ur p e o p l e ve r y sp ecific to m e . Th e sec o nd s ty l i s ti c fi l t e r u ses im p asto to blen d figur e s a nd s p a c e i nto a wet layer of p a l e c r e a m s a n d bl u e s . U n l ike memor y as s h a p e s a n d b o l d c o l o r s , m emor y can also a p pea r fr o m the s u r f a c e o f consciousness. C i nque Te r re : Co r n i glia i s t h e fir st painting m a de in thi s s ty l e , w i th C in q u e Te r r e : R i om a g g i o re and Cin q u e Te r r e : Ve r n azza fo l l ow i n g . A s a s e r i e s , t h e three pieces c o m mu n i c a t e we l l b e t we e n being figur ative a n d a b str a c t fo r mo s t a ud i ence m em b er s.

Vic, Oil on Panel, 11x14 inches 6


Cinque Terre: Corniglia Oil on Canvas 11x17 inches

Molly Oil on Panel 12x16 inches 7


C u t o u t : Molly This painting mainly asks the question, how little infor mation do you need to communicate what is happening? How does the color and definition of the shapes influence the idea of memor y? B y var ying the level of specificity in the facial and bodily features from foreground to background, it can be under stood that we are looking at people . The shar ply defined, highly satur ated color s may be too intense to allude to memor y. Instead, the color s are reminiscent of a car toon movie , or a fr ame from a comic book.

In the process of creating V ictor ia, my painting teacher made me aware of the influence that pho togr aphy had in my paintings and encour aged me to begin “taking photogr aphs like paintings�. Molly was an example of a photogr aph taken like a painting, where I found intr iguing content and composition in two individuals looking towards the camer a and two individuals looking away from the camer a. Molly is a piece that constr ucts identity through shapes and color s. In the foreground there is one figure in a deep pur ple-maroon silhouette , with 4-5 war m and cool color s to discer n facial features. Behind this individual is a par allel figure looking in the same direction, also constr ucted of cool and war m color s but with less facial infor mation. Two people stand on either side of this second figure , looking least figur ative due to the minimal and abstr acted shapes. The composition behind all four figures suggests a cream building with its red and blue windows, with a brown and yellow slanted roof and gutter. A hint of greener y at the ver y top suggests trees or possibly a hill.

Molly, Oil on Panel, 12x16 inches 8


Laurel Oil on Canvas 20x20 inches

How Does Assisi Make You Feel? Oil on Canvas, 16x20 inches

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Becca, Oil on Canvas, 16x24 inches


Imp a s t o : Cinque Ter re Cin q u e Te r r e : Co r ni g l i a br ings up the concer n of how much infor mation is too much? When and where can the viewer begin to fill in the blanks of their own memor y? What is the relationship between the figures and the landscape in the painting? Is the idea of memor y apparent in these images; is that even necessar y wi t h t hi s t y pe of filter ?

T h i s fi l t e r a p p r o a c h e s t h e subject of memor y t h r o u g h t h e e m e r g e n c e o f a scene using a we t - o n - we t p r o c e s s . F i r s t , a surface is created wit h a c ol o r that i s a p p r o p r iate for the m ood , e i t h e r a c r e a m o r mu t e d u l tr amar ine blue t o n e . W h i l e s t i l l we t , fe a t u res of the image a r e s e t in t o t h e we t s u r f a c e , often times c re a t in g a mar bl e i ze e f fe c t. I n C i nque Te r re : C o r n i glia , t he composition is a m e r g i n g o f l a n d s c a p e a n d two figures. Chunks o f b r ow n s , g r e e n s a n d ye l l ows separ ate the dir t y b o t to m hal f fr o m the clear top left sky, h i n t i n g a t l a n d o r a h o r i zo n line . Two blue and bl a c k bl o b s p i e c e t o g e t h e r the impression of t wo h u m a n fi g u r e s . T h e fi g ures are or ganically re n d ere d i n a s i mi l a r s t y l e to the gr eener y i n t h e l an d s c a p e . T h e r e i s j uxtaposition b e t we e n t h e l i n e a r p e r s p e ctive created by t h e g r e e n e r y a n d fi g u r e s a ppear ing to move b a c k i n t o s p a c e , a n d t h e s urface noise of the m a rbleize d i mp as to p ai n t , c ausing the scene t o m ove b e t we e n fi gur a ti ve and ab str action.

Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Oil on Canvas, 11x17 inches

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Cinque Terre: Vernazza Oil on Canvas 11x17 inches

Cinque Terre: Corniglia Oil on Canvas 11x17 inches 11


Imp a s t o : Google Street V iews Th e G oo gle S t re e t V iew i m a ges revisit the im pa st o s t y l e i n an a tte mp t to cr eate a n o ny m i t y i n a n i m a g e t h a t still resonates wit h per s o n a l me mo r i e s o f the tow n Cor tona. In t h e s e i m a g e s , t h e s e t t i n g is not actually p r e s e n t i n t h e p a i n t i n g , bu t only in the title (S noopy ’s Ge l a t o, V i a B e n e d etti). The focus of t h e i m a g e i s o n t h e my s t e r ious glance of the fig u re s c aught i n t he t r a i l o f the Google van. T h e p a i n t i n g s a r e s m a l l a n d infor mal, painted o n s t a n d a r d 9 x 1 2 w a t e r c olor paper with a w h i t e b o a r d e r. U n l i ke t h e paintings from C i nque Te r re w h e r e t h e v i e wer encroaches on a sc e n e fr o m my me mo r y, t he Go o gle Str e e t V i ew fi g u r e s a r e c o n f r o n t a t ional, addressing t h e v i e we r ’s p r e s e n c e a s a passerby in the G o o g le van.

T he im p asto effe c t o f t he C i nque Ter re and Go o gle Str e et V i ew ser ies render s the perception of memor y as emer ging from a or cloud of consciousness. Wi t h t he C i nque Ter re ser ies, memor y mater ializes in chunks and pixels, as seen by the missing features of the figur es’ b od ies and l a ndsc a pes. In t he Google Str e e t V iews, some infor mation is present while other infor mation is lost, such as a figure and its shadow floating in an empty sp ace next to a g ho st i n S noopy’s Gel ato. The faded palette and frosted, marbleized texture of these paintings tend to the imperfect and ep hem er al q uali t i es of memor y.

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Snoopy’s Gelato Oil on Paper 9x12 inches

Via Benedetti Oil on Paper 9x12 inches 13


H y b r i d o f F l at a n d Impa s t o : Vic This painting most directly references the influence of photogr aphy as it mimics the same effect as the depth of field created by the lar ge ap er ture of a c a mer a . However, as the mar k making evolves from flat to texture , the painting shifts from being about the exper ience with the imager y to the exp er ience w ith t he pa i nt qua l i t y.

A s a r e s u l t o f t h e t wo ve r y different styles o f f l a t ve r s u s i m p a s t o p a i n ting, an idea for ms a r o u n d t h e i m p r e s s i o n t h a t each styles gives o f f . T h e f l a t , p h o t o r e a l i s t i c paintings such a s V i c t or ia , a nd Mo l ly , f avo r moments of spec ific ity o f my ow n s t o r y and exp er iences. Th e im pas to C in q u e Te r re a nd Go o gle Str e e t V i ew p a i n t i n g s s u g g e s t a m b iguity and the ro o m fo r i nte r p r e tati o n by the aud ience . In my i n t e r e s t t o c o m b i n e the two visual e x p e r i e n c e s fo r t h e v i e we r, and myself, I lit e r a lly c o mb i n e the t wo s tylistic techniq ues.

The confrontational aspect of this piece really br ings the subject of specificity and ambiguity into the spotlight. How does the angle of the por tr ait and quality of the paint affect the id entity of the indi v i dua l ? Wha t i s t he posi t i on or role of the viewer in this scene? How does this approach of presenting memor y as a snap shot hold tr ue t o t he a c t ua l exper i enc e of r em em b er ing suc h a mo ment ?

V i c is a c r o p p e d s h o t f r o m a lower angle l o o k i n g u p w a r d s a t a p o r t r ait. The par t o f t h e p o r t r a i t c l o s e s t t o t he viewer is r e n d e r e d p h o t o r e a l i s t i c a l ly, while the area o f t h e f a c e a n g l e d f a r t h e s t away is using the i m p a s t o t e c h n i q u e . T h e fo c us of the image is o n t h e p r e s e nc e a nd fac ial exp r ession of t h e i n d i v i d u a l , s e e i n g a s t o how faded the ba c k g ro und i s i n c o mp ar i s on.

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Vic, Oil on Panel, 11x14 inches

Bocce Oil on Canvas 9x11 inches 15


R e l e v a n c e : Audience In a g e n e r a t i o n w h e r e t h e ever yday per son is c e le br a te d by b e i n g g i ve n p latfor m s like Fa c e b o o k , Tw i t t e r a n d Yo u Tube , my interest t o o i s i n t h e c e l e b r a t i o n o f the ordinar y in div id u a l s t hat h ave i mp a c ted my life . A f t e r a l l , v i s u a l a r t , l i ke a ny fine ar t, is an e x p r e s s i o n o f a n d r e f l e c t i o n on the human c o n d it io n . I n t hat s e n s e , i f mad e ab out p eop le , t h e fi n e a r t s mu s t a l s o b e made accessible to peo ple .

Second , w ith its presenc e a nd a c c essi bi l i t y, the ar twor k is able to give back to the ones who have inspired its creation, the ordinar y p er son.

W h e n c o n s i d e r i n g s e t t i n g and audience , it o n ly s e em s a p p r o p r i a t e t h at the paintings of o r d i n a r y p e o p l e i n my e ve r yday life should live in a p l ac e w h e r e o the r or d inar y p eop le c a n m e et t he m. Ta ke , fo r e xam p le , a cafÊ. U n like t h e s t e r i l e , a r ti fi c i al setting of a galler y, c a fe s a n d o the r p ubl i c s p aces ar e a p ar t of t h e ave r a ge p e r s o n’s d ai ly routine . B y p o p u l a t i n g o u r ave r a g e spaces with qu a lit y a r two r k , I fe e l t hat two things ar e a c c o m p l i s h e d . F o r o n e , t h e ar twor k is able t o h ave a l i fe o f i t s ow n i n a space where it i s i n c o n s t a n t c o n t a c t w i t h its most relevant a u die n c e s .

Ilario, Print on Plexiglass, 7x7.5 inches

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Ridley, Photocopy on Map, 3.5x5 inches

Sierra Photocopy on Map 3.5x5 inches 17


R e l e v a n c e : Works by Other Artists In ter m s o f c o nt ent , t wo o f my mo s t i n f l u e n t i a l a r t i s t s a r e I s c a Greenfiel d - S a nd er s a nd C hr i s t o p h e r B r ow n . B o t h a r t i s t s d e a l w i t h m emor y i n rel a t i o nshi p t o p h o t o g r a p hy, w h i l e e mp h a s i zi n g t h e i r processes a s a fo c a l p o i n t i n t h e i r p r a c t i c e . I a d m i r e h ow b o t h a r t i s t s ar e able t o b r i ng t he i r i m a g es o f e ve r y d ay l i fe i n t o t h e v i s u a l a r t dialogue w i t h o u t a p p e a r i n g p r e t e n t i o u s o r h i g h b r ow, bu t r e m a i n i n g humble a s t he y a re by na t ure . Another i n f l u e n t i a l a r t i s t fo r c o n t e n t i s Gi d e o n R u b i n , w h o d e a l s with spec i fi c i t y a n d a m b i g u i t y t h r o u g h p a i n t i n g s o f w a s h e d o u t f a c e s of found f a m i ly p h o t o s . I a m i m p r e s s e d by t h e w ay t h a t h e a t t a c k s the family u n i t , t h e h e a r t o f s p e c i fi c i t y, a n d s h a m e l e s s ly e r a s e s t h e i r identity. H i s a l l u s i o n t o s t o r y t e l l i n g t h r o u g h t h e f a c e l e s s f a m i ly p h o t o s is also ver y t i e d t o my q uest i o n s o f h ow mu c h s p e c i fi c i n fo r ma t i o n i s enough w hi l e st i l l o ffe r i ng ro o m fo r v i e we r s t o t e l l t h e i r ow n s t o r y.

Isca Greenfield-Sanders Yellow Suit Diver, 2006

Christopher Brown Atlantic City, 2010

Gideon Rubin, Three, 2008 18


R e l e v a n c e : Works by Other Artists Fr ank Auerb a c h a nd Pet er D o i g a r e t wo a r t i s t s w h o i n f l u e n c e my decisi o n s w i t h m a t e r i a l s . I c a n c o n n e c t t o A u e r b a c h ’s figur ative p a i n t i n g s t h a t a t t e m p t t o u s e s p e c i fi c c o l o r p a l e t t e and mar k m a k i n g t o p o r t r ay a n e m o t i o n r e l e v a n t t o t h e p e r s o n in the pai n t i n g . I a l s o e n j oy h ow A u e r b a c h i s a bl e t o c o n s t r u c t comprehe n s i bl e p o r t r a i t s o u t a fe w d i s t i n c t m a r k s a n d c o n t r a s t s i n color s. When thi n k i n g a b o u t h ow t o a p p r o a c h p a i n t i n g t h e fi g u r e i n a setting, I r e fe r e n c e Pe t e r Do i g ’s t r e a t m e n t o f h i s fi g u r e s i n n a t u r e . I see the g re a t est c o nnec t i o n b e t we e n D o i g ’s wo r k a n d my i mp a s t o wor ks tha t bl u r t h e l i n e b e t we e n t h e fi g u r e a n d t h e l a n d s c a p e . T h e nar r ative t h a t d e ve l o p s f r o m h i s my s t e r i o u s c o m p o s i t i o n s a n d c o l o r p alette al so i nt r i g ues m e .

Frank Auerbach, Head of Jake, 2007 Cited Wor ks Auerbach, F. (2007). Head of Jake [Painting]. Retr ieved from http://www.ar tnet.com/ar twor k/425866525/707/ frank-auerbach-head-of-jake .html Brown, C . (2010). Atlantic City [Painting]. Retr ieved from http://www.ber ggr uen.com/ar tists/chr istopher-brown/#/ ar tists/chr istopher-brown/ Doig, P. (1997). Canoe-Lake [Painting]. Retr ieved from http://www.saatchi-galler y.co.uk/ar tists/peter_doig.htm Greenfield-Sander s , I. (2006). Yellow Suit Diver [Painting]. Retr ieved from http://www.iscags .com/

Peter Doig Canoe-Lake, 1997

Rubin, G. (2008). Three [Painting]. Retr ieved from http:// www.gideonr ubin.com/gidi34.htm

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Portraits of Memory & Storytelling