Having a Voice Through Abstract


Grace Hartigan.  The Vendor.  1956.             Julie.  The Singer.  2010.

Communicating Through Abstract Art

I chose to analyze an art piece by abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan, whose style was influenced from her real life observations, which its intended feeling was then transformed into a visual image.  Hartigan’s 1956 oil painting The Vendor reflects an exciting time in her life— delivering fresh new ideas through her work, and living in NYC.   In this particular composition her inspiration is the ordinary day-to-day city street scenes that are common in major cities.

During the time period that this painting was done Hartigan’s art work was associated with popular culture in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  In this painting she uses many vibrant colors and brush styles to convey a sense of activity and optimism. In keeping some areas white it creates a feeling that is both uplifting and fresh.   The picture has no order or organization, which is apparent in how the artist uses the space of the canvas, as well as her selection of various shapes.  

In this picture done by Hartigan she finds a way to recognize realism through abstract art form— imparting the experiences for that time period as both a society and as individuals. Although, Hartigan’s art over the years has significantly evolved it still had a way of representing the inevitable changing times, and for others to relate to.  Hartigan will usually include in her work, subjects or objects that are clearly recognizable to onlookers.  For example the face that can be seen in her picture probably is depicting “the vendor”.

I thought this was a great piece of art for our first assignment because it demonstrates the diversity of formation that is produced as a result of using many different types of brushes.  Hartigan also explores with shapes, colors, and the varying aspects of shading as a way to express the behavior and feelings associated with change.

The purpose for this picture isn’t necessarily to inform others but merely to represent a certain time period perceived by an observer of life, which Hartigan was.   The picture portrays an environment with varying components that suggest emotions. In this sense, design is still being utilized as a mode to communicate through self expression. 

The emotions that the picture evoked for me were feelings attributed to life, diversity, joy, anticipation, astonishment—triggered by the assortment of bold colors used.   The picture is complex in identifying all the minute details involved, but is also quite simplistic in its art style.  It is a picture that I think many people can look at, easily interpret, and relate to it.  Although, the nature of the picture is very abstract, the concept is not lost.   

In creating my own composition based on Hartigan’s art style I maintained a feeling of change and excitement using similar color choices—making sure colors were bold, bright, plentiful, and varying.  Also, I used many layers, which allowed me to change certain areas without affecting other areas.  I found that depending on how a layer was created it could easily alter the entire look and feel of the picture.   I found by adjusting the opacity in Photoshop it gave the picture more depth and visual detail.

My composition’s theme was based on today’s Popular Culture.  Both pictures are similar in that they express actively changing times that are being reshaped on a regular basis by many factors involved.  Both epochs’ can be seen as unpredictable but with opportunity for possibilities.  The notion of Robert Plutchik’s Classification of Emotions, is well supported in Hartigan’s art work.  However, the wide range of emotions that may occur needs to be emphasized more.  I found the colors used did not evoke the same emotions that Plutchik recognized in his model of emotions.

The use of certain colors and lines can create movement for an image.  Movement indicates flow and continual transformation, which was depicted in Hartigan’s art and conveyed in my own interpretative composition.

Works Cited

  • Ewa Callahan.  Design as CommunicationAudio lecture
  • “Grace Hartigan”.  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc..  22 December 2009 at 08:41.  18 March 2010 at 17:00.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_hartigan.

2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. malicreates

    Great Julie! I loved your version of the painting. It had great brush effect. The bold bright colors blend well wihin the picture

    March 18th, 2010

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