Miami, FL & Washington, D.C. based artist Noel Kassewitz   |   |   © 2017 Noel Kassewitz

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Painting Spotlight

March 26, 2019


Today's painting spotlight is on Fragonard Visits the Bahamas. 


This painting references Jean-Honore Fragonard's seminal work, The Swing, with it's three protagonists: the hidden lover, the coy wife, and the oblivious husband in a contemporary, minimalist inspired examination of global denial, apathy, and indulgence in the face of rising sea levels. 


In the methodology of my other handwoven works in the Hope Floats series, I started this painting first by sourcing interesting looking found buoys. I knew I wanted to do another Fragonard Visits ________ painting after the happy success of Fragonard Visits Miami. The two magenta marked buoys are from the Seattle region, while the lime-green one is from the Florida Keys. What I love about these particular buoys is that their wrinkles are signs of pressurization – meaning they sunk to great depths, before breaking free and eventually finding their way to shore. With the buoys sourced, I began weaving the panels that would eventually come together to form the canvas. 


If you've been following my work for a while, you'll know I use the Rococo, and it's most well-known artist Jean-Honore Fragonard, as one of my art historical source points. The term "Rococo" is used for a particular style that was very popular in the few decades leading up to the the French Revolution. It was characterized by a pastel palette and a focus on the playful, decadent, and frivolous by a governing aristocracy who were intently ignoring the warning signs of a system out of balance. Then the French Revolution happened… which rebalanced the system, but at a very bloody cost. I can’t help but relate this chapter of history to the current one we are in. There is growing inequality between the classes in society and evidence that environmentally we can’t continue business as usual. What caught my eye artistically was that pastel colors were suddenly in vogue again, with heavy media emphasis on the indelible "millennial pink." Are we using these colors to soothe or fool ourselves as outside pressures builds?


Meanwhile, my other recurring motif is the grid. Rosalind Krauss wrote an excellent essay in 1979, "Grids" that delves into their use as a symbol of modernity. This essay profoundly shaped my understanding and decade-long love affair with them. They have popped up over the course of my work's evolution, sometimes hidden and other times plainly in sight. In the Hope Floats series, they pop up again, only to be broken, distorted, and disrupted by more organic elements.


After the painting was completed, I found it reminded me of a visit I had to the Bahamas growing up. I saw the eroding and fading, but happy colors of Bahamian buildings now before me on the surface of the canvas. As one of the island nations deep in the cross-hairs of rising sea levels, I knew that that's where Fragonard was supposed was to visit next. 






Rosalind Krauss, "Grids," 


 The Swing, Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1767, oil on canvas








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