NOCTURNE: ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS
Nocturne: One Hundred Nights is inspired by American artists spanning the Ashcan school, tonalists, and the color field painters. Genre-signifiers of representational art such as line, perspective, recognizable narrative, and spatial illusion are notably absent in this series. Antithetical to the embodied qualities of these drawings is the conventional process of observational realism through which they are produced. The work serves as a reexamination of humanity’s assumed visual experience in which the world can be easily digested as legible symbols and dated descriptors.
“Nocturne” itself is a term coined in the late 19 th century by American painter and artistic pioneer James McNeill Abbott Whistler as a way to describe works reminiscent of the night through the use of light and—by association—mood. The nocturne has since developed a closer association to night scenes, especially those made from direct observation of the American urban, suburban, and rural landscapes.
In the year 1887, art critic John Ruskin accused Whistler of “Flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” by way of his Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (1877). Teetering on the fine line of realist tradition and non-representational ornament, Whistler’s proto-abstract Falling Rocket sparked heated controversy that ended in ruin for both artist and critic. An American visionary painting abroad in Victorian England had the spirit to push the world of art into a new frontier, an uncomfortable but necessary act.
Abstraction and realism; intelligence and beauty—star-crossed lovers, wrongfully pitted against each other by critics, historians, audiences, and artists. This perceived duality of realism and abstraction has plagued the artistic sphere through modernity and
beyond, and it will continue to do so until these imagined barriers are attacked and erased. Our pre-conceived assumptions about genre and practice have limited what we as artists, and by extension viewers of art, see. The nocturne, due to its advent being so intimately linked with the disruption of artistic convention, is the ideal format to question genre, investigate the hierarchy of mediums, assert the observational tradition within the contemporary, and further the individualistic and experimental American canon.