Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How Picasso explained the afterlife to me:

Note: I have searched everywhere for the painting that I describe below, which was part of a traveling collection. I can't find it anywhere on the web. Maybe I have the name wrong, or maybe it's not catalogued. Picasso created over 22,000 works, including sketches, so I know it's out there somewhere. The Picasso pieces you see accompanying this post are: Joueur de Diaule Assis (1958) (below left) and Acrobat (1930) (below right).

I was 21 and studying abroad in Paris when I learned that my grandmother—-my mother's mother—-was dying. I was actually standing in the basement of the Musee Picasso when I got the phone call. I turned around, completely shocked and numb, and ran smack into a work of Picasso's entitled Le Joueur du Football, or “The Soccer Player.” It must be obscure: it was a very small artwork, depicting the player as an amoeba-like form, and in fact the form was only recognizable as a human figure because Picasso gave it five extremities (head, arms and legs) and dressed it in a soccer uniform.

Maybe I was in denial, and wanted to concentrate on something other than my grandmother's death, but I stood in front of this picture for a long time. There wasn't anything in the picture that seemed typical of Picasso: it was a roughly sketched, preliminary piece of work, relegated to a little-traveled corner of the Museum's basement.

As I stood staring at the picture, it occurred to me that the blob-like form resembled a paper cut-out doll. I imagined taking scissors and cutting along the outline of the figure. And I thought: if I then curled the extremities of the paper figure inward, the shape would change from two dimensions into a three-dimensional sphere, a ball. The head, arms, and legs of the soccer player were like connected jigsaw puzzle pieces that fit almost perfectly together, with only a very little overlap in the finished spherical form.

And this made sense to me: a soccer player that transforms into the soccer ball. Picasso invented cubism, and here he had found another way to show the transformation from two to three dimensions.

It made me think, how do I know I'm not a two-dimensional paper figure in a larger universe?

Maybe God is an artist, and what we call death is really the experience of being cut out of this paper life by The Artist's hand. I'd never really thought about the meaning of an afterlife before.

Now I envisioned my grandmother transforming and entering an unimaginable new dimension of unity and wholeness, a place where the focus would no longer be on the individual but on the universal, a place where the puzzle finally made sense... I thought of my life as being no more than an illustration of the game we want to play, and the afterlife as being the real, the authentic, the genuine experience of this virtual reality. A week later, I came home, and I was with her when she died: I saw her entire face relax into a sweet tranquility. I know she's part of something amazing out there in the next world.

Here's the link to my Channel 8 video (since I can't post it on this site): www.elisegres.com/bio/index.html

It's on the right, in the column beneath the photo...

The reference to Duke law is incorrect: I went to Duke University for undergrad and then to University of Florida for my law degree. And I talk reeeaaaaallllly slowly in the clip: but hey, I used to stutter as a kid! We're lucky I can talk in complete sentences! :-)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My interview with Gayle Guyardo aired on news channel 8 on Thursday, November 2, 2006, and I completely missed it! Fortunately, I am obtaining a copy from the station: I'll post the video as soon as I have the opportunity. What else? I still want to do the morning show with Ginger Gadsden, but think it would be best to wait several months and be able to display new artworks. I hope she'll still be interested!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Drawing and painting are, in the beginning, all about seeing. Seeing exactly what's in front of you, and seeing what's just underneath the surface if you look a little longer. It's amazing how much more you appreciate the beauty of a thing when you really see it and make the effort to recreate it.

It's oddly hard to see what's right in front of us, because from infancy we have grown up creating short-hand visual abbreviations, labels, symbols, for everything we see. Our pictorial labels simplify what we see. The shorthand for a face is a circle with two dots for eyes and a line for the mouth. Our shorthand for a chair looks like an "h"---and if asked to draw something more complicated, we draw a blank. Sit down, actually look at a face or chair, try to draw it, and the label gets in the way. Put simply, our labels categorize groups, but do not allow for differences in visual perspective: complexities get lost in the mix.

In the same way, we interact with people without seeing them: we label people with shorthand stereotypes and then get frustrated with the overly simplified view. Consider how Holden Caulfield complains about phonies; MTV offers us the "Real World"; and the media attacks James Frey for the fictionality of his so-called life story. We insist we want "reality." The problem is not that others are phony or fake or pretenders. The problem is that we telegraph the message that only a few acceptable slots exist for people to fit into.

Look underneath. Life, like art, is subjective, and it goes beyond what's on the surface. We're genetically predisposed to value beauty, to admire symmetry and color as a sign of health, for the prolongation of the human species. But beauty lies. And beauty lies in the eye of the beholder: an eye which can be trained.

Sometimes it's the inner eye that needs training. Be kind to yourself. Think of life as a series of blank canvases. Every moment is a blank canvas and a new opportunity. And as you go, you choose which of these moments, these artworks, you want to store in the portfolio of your memory. Life is not ONE blank canvas (with the awful potential for ruin), but a series, a portfolio, of a billion billion artworks. Paint over an old canvas with a new scene. Make it a comic strip...

Photo shown is my Self-Portrait, in oil paint (top of post). Cartoon: Gary Larson's "Far Side."

Elise in Wonderland (2)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The exciting developments continue.... News anchor Ginger Gadsden of Channel 10's "News This Morning" show is interested in having me do an interview. Writer Sean Lyons, of the lifestyle magazine "Everseen" in Punta Gorda, may be writing a story on me. And thanks to Alan Bridges, I met many wonderful people this weekend, including Amy Scherzer, the Tampa Tribune's education and society reporter, Aaron Fodiman, publisher of Tampa Bay Magazine, Bob and Martha Margolis, and Trish and Paul Melech, and so many others.

I am also currently working on a new oil painting for a client who must remain unnamed: he is commissioning the portrait for his family as a surprise Christmas gift...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Television Debut has occurred.

Well, at least it's been taped, and should air in a couple of weeks. I couldn't have done it all without my grandmother and my architect mom, Leigh Wilson.

Maybe other people would take a blase approach to making a television appearance---personally, I was a nervous wreck! I think I got three hours of sleep last night, then over-caffeinated myself with Starbucks.

Evidence of my crazed state: after three changes of clothing, I didn't even realize I was wearing green shoes with my red shirt.

I have no idea how the debut will turn out, because they still have to piece together all the photos and videotape and soundbites to make a cohesive narrative. While they were taping me, I actually thought we were doing a preliminary run-through! So wish me good luck!

Tomorrow I will be in Orlando on business, and then I am going to Key West for a brief vacation. To those who have e-mailed me with interest in commissions and/or classes, please know I will be in touch with you soon!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Elise in Wonderland (1)...

My new article in the South Tampa Magazine comes out October 3rd, and I can't wait to drive over to the publisher's office and pick up my dozen copies.

My professional website is receiving a much-needed makeover, safely in the excellent hands of Eric Holler's Holler Design.

And on Wednesday morning, Gail Guyardo is bringing a TV crew from NBC's local channel 8 news to tape a feature article on yours truly!