One painting in particular keeps grabbing my attention as I go through The Artist’s Magazine’s December issue, which features the winners of the 30th Annual Art Competition. Extasis by John Jude Palencar claimed first place in the portrait/figure category, and I’m happy to share it with you here in this article by Editor-in-Chief Maureen Bloomfield.
Excerpt From The Artist’s Magazine
The title, from the Latin ex–“from” or “out of” and stasis–“standing,” indicates that the figure is standing outside himself, as if amazed. The posture and pose conjure the image of Sebastian, the Christian martyr, particularly Andrea Mantegna’s version, which was said to have been completed while the artist was recovering from the plague. There are no arrows in John Jude Palencar’s painting, but there is a faint halo/nimbus to emphasize that the figure is beyond this world; indeed the shaved head and three surgical scars suggest he has undergone severe illness or some other kind of transformation.
Extasis, according to Palencar, was based on one of his old drawings that he found in an art school sketchbook, itself based on a childhood memory of a church sculpture of Sebastian. “In both the painting and the original sketch, I’d tried to include arrows,” says Palencar, “but that was too obvious and dramatic. The figure at first was intentionally distorted. After a bit of time, I decided that the distortion, like the arrows, was simply too over the top, so with the aid of a model I redrew and adjusted the entire figure directly on the panel.” The distortion now is confined to the head, whose contour and expression seem at once alien and ethereal.
To create the illusion of the mysteriously encoded landscape, Palencar worked through layers of acrylic on a 3/4-inch birch panel, sanding and reimagining through vision and revision. “As I adjusted the painting, a number of new concepts began to emerge–” says Palencar, “for instance, the Fundamentalists’ belief in the Rapture; the mysterious phenomenon of crop circles; the story of the Berlin Patient, who was cured of AIDS by a blood stem cell transplant; and the sad experience of my mother’s cancer diagnosis and subsequent death.” Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian has as its background a classical ruin; in Palencar’s Extasis, the landscape depicts what surrounds the artist’s studio in Ohio: “In the fall and winter,” he says, “the landscape becomes almost a monochrome: there is always something just under the surface of things. In the distance you can see a subtle wisp of rising vapor. I often think of the ancient souls that once walked this land.” ~MB
Extasis, like so many significant artworks, came to our attention via The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Art Competition, which is accepting entries. Enter your work today (the deadline is April 1), for your chance to get featured here and beyond.
Wishing you the best,
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