This week’s cover by Cornelia Foss is a special one. Not only does it represent a signature image from the artist, but it also evokes the coming spring and a new beginning. The idea of a “new beginning” applies to Foss’s professional and personal life as well. While she continues with her painting and teaching as usual, she took time for something rather novel: a trip to Venice, where she remained until the day before Easter.
Foss’s work, which is featured in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery (among other institutions), reveals an unusual ambiance. Imagine her describing Venice itself as “grand and mysterious” and you can also imagine Foss’s landscapes, portraits and still lifes. Put another way, Foss’s images are stately yet specific places and people, suggesting a contrasting universality that is not easily grasped, a kind of subtle spirituality, which stays with us long after we have viewed the work.
I can sense your excitement at visiting Venice. What’s your attraction to this
I haven’t been here since my honeymoon, a long time ago. I had forgotten how spooky and mysterious it is. But it’s also majestic and grand. One can see what a great city of fantasy it once was. There are masks for sale everywhere. The color of the buildings is so sophisticated and never garish. Orange next to pink next to yellow ochre and always the grey-green shutters. And the dark alleys and the whitewashed light. And the grey-green canals and the pitch-black gondolas sliding along. An incredible city.
Your art has such glorious hues. You lived in Italy part of your childhood. Do you think you were influenced by the colors, which showed up in your paintings?
I think painters are always influenced by whatever surrounds them. I’m as curious as you are to see how my surroundings will influence me.
There are other consistent elements in your work besides color. How about your flowers? And what might these elements mean?
The density in my flowers represent to me a kind of density in nature which can be found everywhere. In crowds of people, in a starry night or in a grassy meadow.
What about your portraits? I remember your family portraits especially of your grandchildren, Olivia and Sabina. And oh yes, your dog, Augie.
A strange thing happened to me after September 11. The only things I wanted to paint were people. I began, of course, with my immediate family, but now I love going from the intimacy of a portrait to a large land or seascape.
Has your routine changed over the years?
It’s been pretty much the same for the past 25 years. I teach two afternoons a week at the Art Students League and paint either in my studio or at home in New York and Bridgehampton. I’m lucky enough to have beautiful views at both homes.
Cornelia Foss will have an exhibit at Bridgehampton’s Peter Marcelle Gallery, 2411 Main Street, starting June 29. Call 631-613-6170 or visit petermarcellegallery.com for more information. Contact the artist at [email protected]
Cover image photographed by Foss Photo Arts. Photography and Video Services, New York, 347-452-3831, [email protected]