- Painting Workshop with Alastair Dacey
About the Exhibition
From late September to early November, we proudly host an original exhibition and experiment in perception from local artist Alastair Dacey. Inspired by Walt Kuhn’s response to European Modernism in the early nineteenth century, Alastair spent two years exploring Kuhn’s unique vision and style, seeking to interpret select portraits and use them as guides and catalysts to create wholly new works of art.
Recreating the look and feel of each piece posed questions of design, color, and form as well as the overarching question of exactness and how literal to be in the details—right down to the feathered caps and embroidery. The driving forces behind this project? The concept of masks, identity, and mystery, as well as a search for truths both hidden and revealed by the costumes and face paint of Kuhn’s subjects.
About Alastair Dacey
Alastair Dacey received formal training at the Rhode Island School of Design, Ingbretson Studios in New Hampshire, and Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. Since 2010, he has lived and worked in the Portsmouth, NH area. A skilled landscape and still life painter, Alastair focuses most intently on the portrait and human figure. His love of observation, precise draughtsmanship, and the painterly search for values and color put his working methods squarely within the nineteenth-century aesthetic tradition. He is an active painting instructor, teaching workshops and accepting residencies and private students. Alastair’s work is in noteworthy collections including the St. Botolph Club and the New Hampshire State House.
As a painter, I have been impressed with Kuhn’s pared down designs and direct interpretation of forms and detail. I am sympathetic when he describes one of his paintings as, “A lump of weighted form… the universal substance of art…Cezanne chopped it up to see how it was made; his followers fool with the pieces. Here it is whole again." I am fascinated by how Kuhn saw the face paint, costumes and eyes of his solitary, often aloof subjects. In many of his best portraits you don’t just see, you encounter someone.
To learn more, visit Alastair's website: https://alastairdacey.com/
About Walt Kuhn
Kuhn's career is bookended by his 1901 trip to study in Paris and by his final New York exhibition in 1948 at the famous French firm of Durand-Ruel. In between he helped organize the Armory Show, introducing Europe’s avant-garde art movements to an unprepared and duly shocked American public. He depicts his elaborately clad showgirls and clowns with the stayed formality and solidity of an early Greek and Etruscan sculpture. They peer out from behind “impersonal masks of make-up” unfazed, and as one critic put it: “there is an emotional strength…a somewhat sad facial expression coupled with a sense of classical composure… .”
Masks have a long history of use that goes well beyond trickery, from protection to disguise, religious ceremony and spirit invocation to entertainment and intimidation - to name just a few. For ancient Greek theatre, masks encouraged the actors’ transformation into character and allowed for one actor to play numerous roles. “Masks do not hide the persona, but reveal… and liberate the lower tendencies of the true personality of the one who wears the mask” suggests Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant in the Dictionnaire des Symboles.
Image source: metmuseum.org