Drawing Near by Drawing Far
Source:NY Arts Magazine Author:Lori Nelson Date: 2011-02-23 Size:
The thing to do when looking at a city is try to not look closely or sharply at the city. Look blurrily and let the shapes mass. Sometimes you’ll get the opportunity to be above the city while at the same time remaining within the city.


Lori Nelson, First Day on the Job, 2009. Oil on panel, 12 x 12 inches

 The thing to do when looking at a city is try to not look closely or sharply at the city. Look blurrily and let the shapes mass. Sometimes you’ll get the opportunity to be above the city while at the same time remaining within the city. You will be on the rooftop of a building (a friend has a key) looking around and down, laughing and joking about falling accidentally, dropping your phone, or spitting. Not from an airplane, but from this high building, you may possibly understand for a maddeningly slippery moment that the city is only one entity, a mass, a single body, breathing and solid, complex, but not complicated from this vantage where the details recede enough to unify the pieces. If you can stop talking for about a minute, you’ll understand that the city is really only just one massive thing and the many busy pieces that make it up will seem hard to grasp, though you know they do exist.

Just as the city massed is but a single body, you and I and our own bodies are cities. We course with important information, broken hearts, unfulfilled promises, nauseating secrets. Up close we can often be too much to handle, details prominent and intricate. At about arm’s length or even better, from across a room, however, a human becomes generalized like a city seen from above, harboring our unseen complications, impossible to comprehend, finally simplified.

Often in my paintings, I include a generalized city as the background. It works like a backdrop in a theatrical production, as one distant mass. Before the city a drama unfolds, or, better said, the drama is set to unfold. I paint people in their distant mode, complex, ready for some undefined or internal episode, but still far enough away to be generalized. The complicated part, though certainly there, remains distant. The subject is a city viewed from afar. Distance retains complexity while reducing complication.


[Editor] Lola Xu

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