Abstract figures in the paintings of Erin Cone
Graceful female figures displayed from the side, back, and front. Sometimes a woman’s tilted head is truncated; sometimes a shoulder disappears from the frame. The rich colors of the figures are muted by a drop of subdued background. Details are painstakingly added and yet have an abstract effect when seen as a whole.
Texan painter Erin Cone is a multi-award-winning artist who has achieved success in various solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S. and Europe. Her career began in 2001 at her debut solo exhibition in an Austin, Texas gallery. At the time, she was still considered an insider’s secret. Since then, she has twice been named a Top Emerging Artist and has appeared numerous times in notable art magazines. American Art Collector Magazine, Southwest Art Magazine and others have already selected Cone's work for their covers. Today she is an established figure in the art world and her work has found its way into collections all over the world. Critics are continuously fascinated by her unique interpretation of traditional figurative art, as well as her subtle play with realist form. Cone masterfully employs light/dark contrasts, limited color spectrums, and the contrast between detailed renderings and graphic stylization.
The methods Erin Cone use to achieve this result are very complex. In seeking her motif, she makes sketches of poses, gestures, and details. These then become the basis for photographs (generally of herself, but sometimes of models as well). The final search for composition occurs intuitively. Through experimentation, Erin Cone finds the right combination of individual elements. “It’s more about the visual effect than the story content, that’s why I concentrate on the subtle placement of the subjects within the frame,” said Erin Cone, describing her experiences. “I intentionally create a tension between near photographic detail and my own vocabulary of visual disturbance, subverting realism. This duality is central to my work and allows the figures I paint to be both concrete and abstract – calling forth emotion without pinning the emotion down.”
Once the composition has been determined, Cone otherwise continues very traditionally: sketches on the canvas, filled with layers of color, in some cases allowing for changes during the painting process. The result is such impressive pictures as Allure, the abstract-realist portrait/non-portrait of a young woman in a red dress: a formally elegant equilibrium of rigidity and tense movement; a successful mélange of abstract minimalism and figurative realism.
|Born in Lubbock, Texas, USA|
|Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting, University of Texas, Austin, Texas|
|Lives and works in Santa Fe, USA|
|Department of Cultural Affairs/New Mexico Arts Permanent Collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico|
|Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Washington, D.C.|
|The Tullman Collection, Chicago, Illinois|
|Standard Chartered Bank, London, UK|
|2020||Time & Tide, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2018||Boundless, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2017||Stages of Believing, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2016||Wish Fulfillment, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2015||Ineffable, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2015||Emergence, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, USA|
|2014||Modiste, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2013||Desiderata, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2012||Theory of Forms, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2012||Ingenue, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco USA|
|2011||Denouement, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2010||Passages, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, USA |
|2009||Blessed Unrest, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2008||Possible Outcomes, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco,USA|
|2008||Departure, Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, USA|
|2007||Synchronicity, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2006||Secrets, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, USA|
|2005||3, Andreeva Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
|2005||Erin Cone: 5th Annual Show, Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, USA|
|2004||Transformation, Seven-o-seven Contemporary, Santa Fe, USA|
|2004||Interval, Wally Workman Gallery, Austin, USA|
|2003||Configuration, Seven-o-seven Contemporary, Santa Fe, USA|
|2021||Caesura, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2019||Figurations 2019, Nüart Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexiko, USA|
|2018||New New Real II, Tinney Contemporary, Nashville, Tennessee, USA|
|2013||20th Anniversary Exhibition, Hespe Gallery, San Francisco, USA|
|2012||Distilled Memory, Decorazon Gallery, London, UK|
|2011||In Portrait, Blank Space Gallery, New York City, USA|
|2010||Gallery Artists, Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, USA|
|2009||Artist’s Choice, Principle Gallery, Alexandria, USA|
|2008||Inaugural Exhibit, MMFA, Palm Desert, USA |
|2007||9th Annual Realism Invitational, Jenkins-Johnson Gallery, New York City, USA|
|2006||Small Works, Principle Gallery, Alexandria, USA|
|2005||Self Portraits by Contemporary Masters, Andreeva Gallery, Santa Fe, USA|
Picasso once said, “you don’t make art, you find it.” Where do you find your art?
My focus is on the ideal rather than on strict realism and I find glimpses of this ideal in the way I view the world, distilling and refining what I see around me. Often one certain element of a work of art will spark an idea or I’ll notice a particular moment with total clarity – like the way the negative space operates around a sculpture or the empty stage around a dancer. With this view, I find inspiration everywhere: design, fashion, cinema, nature, even just people-watching. By knowing what motivates me, and staying true to my vision, I find there is much to inspire me.
From an idea to its materialization: How do you approach your work?
I generally begin a new body of work without any premeditated agenda, instead simply letting things evolve and painting what interests me most at the moment. I begin with sketches of poses, gestures, and ideas which I then use as the basis for a photoshoot - most often photographing myself (or a model when I can find one). Then I work and rework these photos in the computer, essentially creating digital studies before I begin the actual painting.
As I compose my pieces, I always feel there is one arrangement of form and space that is right - and finding it is a very intuitive process. When I've got it, it's like the solution to a puzzle. My goal is to arrive at a composition which has an inherent abstract strength that enhances the representational content while functioning independently of it.
Once I find the visual solution I’m looking for, I proceed very traditionally – making a detailed under-drawing on the canvas which I slowly flesh-out with repeated layers of painting and glazing. As I paint, I allow for the piece to alter from what I originally planned – working with the unexpected to enhance my expression and learn something new.
Which artist would you like to have coffee with and what would you discuss?
Georgia O’Keefe is an early inspiration, both for her art and for her life. Her ability to paint in a wholly realistic manner while achieving gorgeous abstract compositions has heavily influenced my work. And, of course, she was one of the first female artists in America to really make an impact in the male-dominated art world and she did it while being so true to her own vision. She inspires me on several levels.
How did you get into art?
I always wanted to be an artist—from the time I was a little girl—and I always drew and painted throughout my childhood. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting but didn’t believe it was possible to make a living as an artist, so I worked for a couple of years in graphic design before deciding at the age of 24 to take the leap and paint full-time.
Who are the people in your surroundings that influence you?
I find that for me the trick is to try not to be influenced. I try to follow the advice of one of my favorite Georgia O-Keefe quotes: “Look with your own eye – feel your own things with your own heart – in your own way – and get it down.”
What are you working on right now?
I’m painting a new body of work for an upcoming show, continuing my exploration of the female form in designed/refined abstract space. With this new series, I’m especially interested in the idea of the pause that exists before action and decision – the moment of pure potential in which all is possible. The concept is evolving as I work and I’m excited to see where it leads.