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Scott Goodwillie’s Reluctant Amazing Art 2020

| November 7, 2020 | 0 Comments
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Scott Goodwillie’s  Reluctant Amazing Art

What is it about certain mythologies that lend themselves so well to visual interpretation? The museums are full of paintings that retell, and perhaps shed new light, on stories that we all know well.

New York-based artist Scott Goodwillie creates images both mythical and personal in Reluctant , on exhibit through March 28 in Seattle’s Marni Muir Gallery in Pioneer Square

Many of the paintings in the exhibit feature Goodwillie’s long-time model Nicomis (Nikki) and highlight the work of art that she made of herself by adorning her long hair with ornaments until it reached her ankles. Goodwillie is quick to point out that the hair ornaments were all Nicomis’ doing, something that fascinated him from the first time that he saw her.

“She had everything in her hair for four years, just imagine! I made my best attempt to document all her accoutrements just as they were. It didn’t start off as a series but I realized a theme was in progress a few paintings in. I was idealizing her as my muse and started portraying her as a contemporary woman turned goddess.”

It is this realization that led to the exhibit’s theme and title of Reluctant Gods, and the use of Nicomis’ own artistic expression to further his. Goodwillie and his model discussed the role of art in human history and mythology, eventually creating pieces that were a modern take on these ideas.

The process was collaborative, and Goodwillie is willing to take turns directing and letting his model create the image. “Sometimes she would strike a pose and it would conjure something up, other times I would have something in mind,” he said.

One example of this process is the piece entitled “Nikki’s Demons” that portrays Nicomis, a modern rather than a classic beauty, having her hair feasted upon by cherubs. The idea for this work was inspired by the state of Nikki herself at the time.

“I noticed a shift in her mood,” Goodwillie explained. “Carrying ten pounds of jewels on her head was taking its toll.”

In “Downward Spiral” the cherubs have grown and are chasing Nikki down the stairs of a dilapidated building. It is the visual collapse of her pedestal, and shortly after the work was done, “she in reality did release herself by cutting her hair,” Goodwillie reveals.

He had also released himself in a way by creating a seventeen painting series documenting her rise and eventual rejection of her status as a modern idol. “The Tale of the Reluctant Goddess” features a new model who is unsure of the role that she has been handed.

Reluctant Gods explores the idea of modern mythologies and also creates some of its own mythologies. Goodwillie’s classic techniques coupled with his modern subjects and surrealist tone provide a new way of painting the human form. His oil paintings look almost like photographs at times, but they are depicting scenes that bring to mind stories that are hundreds of years old.

Aside from the paintings of Nicomis there are other works that take the idea of a myth and give it a modern twist. The tale of Diana is referenced, as is a gender swapping version of Leda and the Swan. The myth of Leda also contributes to the piece “She’s Come Undone” where Goodwillie imagines the warrior of Leda to be the one in control.

The viewer, however does not need to have an extensive knowledge of mythology to understand the feeling of Goodwillie’s paintings. The tone of reverence and the stylized classicism of the images speaks the theme for him.

“The sense that I want to extract from a viewer is an abrupt stilling of thought followed by a creation of their own meaning and story,” Goodwillie says.

His pieces achieve this in a creative and adventurous way that can inspire multiple ideas rather than a straightforward storytelling. His human forms are masterfully rendered, but the paintings all tell a story deeper than that of a standard portrait. His subjects are confused, often conflicted or wary. Other times they are confident or caught in a moment of reflection.

It is these human emotions that endure over time and become the inspirations for the myths that will also continually resurface. Some of the paintings are not based on specific tales and all of them can be read to mean many things to many different viewers.

“Some are my own takes on ancient stories but increasingly I enjoy creating my own,” the artist notes. “You know, that’s how most things got started anyway… someone had a good idea, and it just took off.”

Art imitating myth is definitely a good idea and one that Goodwillie has explored with his own imitations on the great art that has come before him. His paintings are original, but use a technique that is indicative of someone who has deeply studied what came before.

Goodwillie remembers that growing up he would always look for the painting or artist that would make him stop and think. “It’s always been exciting on a level that’s hard to put words to,” he says. The work in Reluctant Gods achieves this aim and is the perfect fodder for a moment of quiet thought and continual interpretation.

Scott Goodwillie is also interviewed in the March 2009 issue of Art Collector magazine.

Many of the paintings in the exhibit feature Goodwillie’s long-time model Nicomis (Nikki) and highlight the work of art that she made of herself by adorning her long hair with ornaments until it reached her ankles.

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