“Lately I have been painting dragons, distressed maidens, and bulls with bad intentions. Titian, Rembrandt, Picasso, Redon, and Ryder have all preceded me to this trough and drunk deeply.
“Perhaps the greatest inspiration for my recent work is the Metropolitan Museum’s Courbet exhibition: the personal/mythic narrative and atmosphere in Courbet’s work reminds me of the dark and weighty atmosphere of my native northern Minnesota, where the winter sun sets early and night goes on forever. The Northern light also leaves many corners shrouded and ambiguous. My palette is now deeper, and the emotional tone of the paintings veers toward anxiety as seen in Stags at Pork Chop Hill, with deer caught in a train’s headlights on a cold winter night. The Boys of Pinetop Pond D inhabits a dark pine forest clearing with a foreboding drama unnamed but clearly sensed. The scenes in Europa and The Flying Fish (2011), Danae and the Parakeet (2011), Diana and Acteon (2012), Prometheus (2012), and St. George and the Dragon (2012) operate as Mythical metaphors for looming unavoidable disaster. My works have moved away from personal vignettes to more universally shared narratives.
“These new painting are less the France of Matisse and Bonnard and more the Minnesota of my memory. They reflect my growing awareness of the uncertainties of life. I don’t think it’s an accident that these Mythical subjects are often taken up by artists in mid to late career. My recent paintings’ latent anxiety, emotional/tonal heaviness, and darkness are not just reflections of my home in Northern Minnesota’s climate: I have grown increasingly interested in speaking with the big boys of western art, stepping into their homes, working with their darker palettes and their darker subjects, classical mythology, especially. I don’t feel at odds with artists like Titian and Rembrandt—I’m not arguing with them as a contemporary female painter, although my own take on these mythic women is often quite different. I don’t subjectify my women; rather, they allow me to reinvestigate a myth from my point of view: rather than rape, there’s pleasurable co-joining, as in Danae and the Parakeet; rather than the terrified victim, there’s resistant outrage, as in Europa and the Flying Fish. At times I’m feeling closer to late Rembrandt than other painters who took on these subjects. I think of him as my friend, urgent and present in my studio. He’s someone I listen to very carefully. Our Danaes share a sense of erotic pleasure. They are not victims so much as active participants in a golden, sexual light. This is a wonderful conversation to be having, but I’m only ready for it now, after many years of painting.”
“Kyle Staver: Paintings, Prints, Reliefs,” John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY. Janaury 31 -February 24, 2013.
Image at top: Kyle Staver, Europa and the Flying Fish, 2011, oil on canvas, 68 x 54 inches.
Subscribe to Two Coats of Paint by email.