“No Mimetic Ability”

[Stella’s] emphasis on two-dimensional surfaces was a clear rejection of the idea of painting as a window into a three-dimensional space.

A story in one of his mother’s Vogue magazines, featuring models posed in front of a painterly Franz Kline-esque Abstract Expressionist backdrop, provided him with an early clue that art wasn’t only about figuration. At Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., in the early ’50s, when European abstraction was a prevailing force in studio art, Stella was especially influenced by the work of Hans Hofmann, a kind of proto-Abstract Expressionist from the ’40s, and the Bauhaus color theorist Josef Albers. “I had no mimetic ability,” Stella tells me, “but I was never interested in finding one, or cultivating one. No, I worked directly with the materials, actually. The big deal in postwar American painting was ‘its materiality,’ and so that was heaven for me.”

(Megan O’Grady, “The Constellation of Frank Stella,” NYTimes, 3-18-20)

For me as an amateur painter the scariest prospect on the square feet of earth in front of my easel is to grope past mimesis and “work directly with the materials” as Stella puts it. That jump-off hovers just beyond my slogging daubs like the mirage where hot asphalt meets horizon on the highway between Balmorhea and Pecos.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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