Small Potatoes

In the fall of 2016 I opened a new show at Gladstone Gallery in Manchester, Massachusetts, titled “Small Potatoes.” These paintings are affectionate portraits of the humble tuber in its more flamboyant state, often forgotten, but lively, in the back corner of the cupboard.

Since 20011, I have periodically recorded these finds. First drawing them in graphite or conte to discover just the right pose, I then paint them in oil on 20 x 16 inch panels. After a while I tried rendering them even larger, where their fascinating patina and decorative appendages can be appreciated even more. Seeing something small blown up to an unnatural size has always interested me, like the gigantic 17th century flea engraved by Robert Hooke.

hooket34From Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, published January 1665

These portraits have mostly been painted in my studio, in winter, when I take a break from my summer habit of painting (outside, and in watercolor) the rocks along the shore of Cape Ann, north of Boston.

Friends have mentioned the strange similarity of these boulders—deposited on the beach by the retreating glaciers—to the potato, and I have to admit there is something similar about their form. But the potatoes have a charm and amusing persona that I just don’t see in the rocks. For years I resisted showing these paintings outside of my own studio because I liked watching them grow as a family of related shapes and personalities. Elaine and Charles, the proprietors of Gladstone Jewelry and Gallery in Manchester-by-the-Sea, finally twisted my arm to go public.

After I find an engaging subject, I draw it in a variety of positions, and at the same size I am going to paint it, to find the right pose.

Here is a sampling of the dozens of potatoes I have now painted: