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At an operatic recital in 2008, I had the great privilege of hearing mezzo-soprano Geeta Novotny performing. Her voice was riveting, and as she sang, fully eight months pregnant, she looked magnificent. After the recital, I asked her if she would let me photograph he as she sang; we’ve been working together ever since. I revisited the theme of singing with this group of 15 paintings of Geeta singing the Habañera from the opera Carmen by George Bizet. The first of my series of paintings of singers was called Diva in Extremis, and the images were cobbled together without a real singer as a model. In the new group of paintings, I attempted to keep the expressive dynamic of the original images while being much truer to the real singer herself. Consequently, these are not portraits in a literal sense, but are a response to this particular singer and the music she creates with her voice.
I see music as a direct route to feeling, as is painting. The work for the series Operatic Duets, based very loosely on the story of Tristan and Isolde from the opera by Richard Wagner, engages the paths to feeling evoked by the couple singing. This is a complicated trajectory as there is no music in these paintings, only the idea and gestures of music. It leaves the viewer’s imagination to fill in the empty spaces, to fill them with sound.