My student Allison Sanchez visiting Andrea Arnott’s figurative drawing suite Bouquet, Prune & Wilt at the School of Art’s Gatov Gallery West on 17 September 2018
Artist: Andrea Arnott
Exhibition: Outlines and Inner Corners
Works: Bouquet, Prune & Wilt
Media: Graphite & White Charcoal on Paper
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Max L. Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist
Andrea Arnott is an undergraduate student in the CSULB School of Art’s BFA Drawing and Painting program. Art has been a crucial part of her life as she started getting into it since she was about eighteen months old. Andrea claimed that she’d been drawing for a long time since then and still does today. Hailing from Northern California, Andrea’s willingness to move far from her home to pursue an art degree shows her dedication to her work. Her favorite things to sketch include nature and capturing things in a realistic sense, though she admits that sometimes her art may not be as literal as it used to be. Therefore, the ideas that Andrea likes to incorporate into her work may not always be obvious at first. Even so, she likes to combine both literal and ambiguous elements into the messages she’s trying to convey. Although she presented graphite illustrations at the Outlines and Inner Corners exhibition, she’s mainly interested in working with oil paintings. One of the reasons why is because she thinks oil is “easier to work with” and allows her to go back and change things in her artwork if she needs to.
The three sketches she presented in the exhibit follow an ordered sequence: Bouquet, Prune, and Wilt. Each one used graphite and white charcoal on paper as their media and the works are in black and white. The lines are smooth and blended together, which is easy on the observer’s eyes. All of the shading comes together gracefully and realistically; the texture of the skin on the model (who is Andrea herself) looks very soft and lifelike. Even the white ribbons in her hair looked real and I could almost feel the silky texture of them. The artwork is also fairly small, so one must get closer to observe fine details. For example, the flowers in Bouquet had soft, wavy lines and light shading. The stems and leaves did not have wavy lines but instead were straight and firm. In the next self-portrait, Prune, the lines that made up the petals were not as soft and were more jagged. Instead of being drawn as straight, the stems in this drawing were more wavy. The difference in the shape of the lines made the flowers look slightly more droopy, but these differences would only be noticed by close observation. The black and white handling of these works gives them a serious and deep tone.
I believe the artist is trying to convey the process of change and how different one can look at certain stages of their life. Considering the fact that she claims her art is a mix of realism and symbolism, she may be trying to juxtapose the natural process of a flower’s life cycle and the way humans can change. In Bouquet, the model’s hair was styled into braids and she was also heavily clothed with a puffy, long sleeved shirt. She also had glasses on and was surrounded by lilies in full bloom. Here, I feel like Andrea is trying to say that much like the flowers, the woman is in full bloom. The clothes and accessories she has on represent petals. These “petals” almost cover her entire body, which may give the model a sense of security and confidence as she looks straight ahead. The ribbons in her hair are pretty to look at, much like a flower. In Prune, the model loses some of her petals and is looking away. The glasses are also gone, which may symbolize a loss of vision or more specifically, how one would no longer want to see a wilted flower. Similar to how flowers are admired in real life, once the flower loses their petals they also lose their appeal. The idea of change is occurring here, as the woman becomes less confident due to losing some part of herself. In Wilt, the model is nude and the flowers surrounding her are dead. The aspects of her personality that made her confident are stripped from her and leaves her feeling bare, hence the nudity. The experiences that the model (and the flower as well) went through during their lifespan cause them to lose certain aspects of themselves which manifests as a change of appearance.
The ideas that Andrea is exploring in her work resonates with my own experiences in life. I can definitely relate to the idea of change and how changes in my environment shape my appearance. As I grow, I’m learning new things about adulthood every day. However, it sometimes feels like the elements that used to make me feel safe are slowly being stripped of me; one example would be being the background character. Now that I’m getting older, I’m realizing that I can’t keep having myself go unnoticed forever. After all, how will I ever get a job if I don’t project myself? Becoming an adult can be difficult and as a result, I feel lonely from time to time. I’m transitioning from a shy kid, who enjoyed the safety of being out of the spotlight into a more confident person who tries talking to other people in an effort to be more sociable. I think my efforts to change will be beneficial to me as I grow older, but at the same time I can’t help but feel like I’m killing off a personal part of me. Leaving this part of my personality behind almost feels like I’m casting off my own “petals” and exposing a vulnerable part of me that fears talking to others. However, flowers can regrow and bloom anew. Change, although scary, can be good and channeling that positivity can help me grow in a positive way. The idea that change is a natural process of life is an important one and I’m glad that Andrea was able to convey that message through her art.