Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Erector Square: Willard Lustenader

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Willard Lustenader
Oct. 15, 2006.

His son's school project, about five years ago, provided the spark of inspiration for one of Willard Lustenader's two ongoing series of paintings.

"He did a cutout for The Diary of Anne Frank. I asked for the negatives," Lustenader told me. It was the leap into his cutout series, still lifes that contemplate spatial relationships.

"What I really like about the cutouts is that they are subjective as well as objective," said Lustenader, meaning that they have both representational and abstract qualities. He is presently painting cutouts arranged on white tabletops so he can explore the "purity of space."

The other series, which Lustenader calls his "composite pictures," hint at hidden narratives. Many of them feature female nudes, radiating warmth and realism. You can see the blue of the veins beneath the surface of the skin. These works have images overlapping images, sort of trompe l'oeil of a painting within a painting. Lustenader said that even these composite pictures "are basically still lifes if you think about it."

He prefers to work from life. The figures are painted from models. He does paint sketches outdoors and occasionally refers to photographs, if necessary.

The painting "Driftless," which attracted my attention as soon as I entered his studio, includes a sensual sleeping model, Lustenader's imaginative rendering of dark waters at night and another panel of light-dappled turquoise water cribbed from National Geographic.

"It's based on it, the essence of it," clarified Lustenader.


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