Visions of Venus | Christopher Cart
Venus has been a popular muse for generations. How did you come up with a fresh idea for an age-old concept?
When I first started sketching out ideas for Venus, most of the pages in my drawing pad were just another nude—idealized in various poses. This isn’t what I wanted but it is how I start ideas, just sketching out ideas, working through the obvious. It is kind of like visiting a new location in travels, when you first visit a tourist spot you just see the pretty postcard stuff, the viewing vantage points everyone else sees at first. I have to revisit an idea over and over to develop it beyond the first obvious idea.
So I sketched and let the idea churn in the back of my head while I worked on other pieces. I was thinking of the various aspects and ways we have seen Venus over the centuries. She is a goddess, an ideal of beauty and the love we strive for.
Often the visions of Venus have been from the man’s perspective, looking at woman, painting her beauty, honoring her ideal with our brushes. I am a man but the idea began evolve, to paint Venus, beautiful, but as a human, as a mortal. Most times we don’t attain goddess perfection, often our dreams break and fragment as we strive for them. I wanted to paint a real but beautiful woman.
I painted my wife, my muse, my Venus for many paintings over the years. But I decided to paint her hurt, in pain, as she sees dreams break and fade. This idea of Venus took her from being an abstract ideal—looking at her from the outside—to a very personal painting, building from the inside out, emotion first, the painting evolving from that.. Venus as my wife having lost dreams unrealized. She was very brave to pose for this piece.
Who is Venus to you? Is there anyone who is a modern-day Venus for you?
My wife, Jen would have to be my Venus, my beauty, my muse over the years of our marriage, through the good and the bad.
How do you prepare to create a piece for a themed call, like 'Visions of Venus/Venus’ Visions'?
Themed calls are interesting in that they open you up, get you out of any possible easy comfort boxes you may be painting in—making you look at and consider things you may not have before. This is an exciting challenge. The challenge is enhanced as you build a painting in this new direction, that is also not an anomaly with your other work. However, sometimes, themed calls can be more than a one-off, more than one painting for one show. They can inspire a whole new direction for your work. The Venus call may be this for me as several other related ideas have spun off in the drawing pad. We’ll see what happens.
Tell us a little bit about your piece in Visions of Venus/Venus’ Visions.
My painting Fragments of Venus Dreams is a painting of my wife, Jen. Physically, I hope I painted her as a beauty, not idealized, but as a real woman who is beautiful—a woman in her fifties who has always been beautiful and works hard to keep in shape. She is beautiful. But the painting also shows her upset. And she is a nude, but also naked, in a vulnerable sense. I painted her within a setting of bent perspectives to enhance the unsettled feelings. The painting contains many symbolic references to love, both in general and personal, to Venus, to beauty, but the unsettled scene tells of unrealized, broken dreams that slip beyond our reach, fragmenting around us.
What influences the type reference material you use for your work?
For reference materials I use anything and everything I need. I draw and paint from life to get the freshness of color and form I want but I also work from many reference drawings and photos of bits and pieces as needed. And I gather any props I need around as well. NOt to mention the stuff that jsut comes from my head.
What do you like or dislike about being a fine artist in the digital age? In what ways have you had to adjust marketing yourself?
The digital age throws new challenges at us daily with the cool new app that will make us all rich—if we only go in and post constantly. This is a time challenge but also a great opportunity. I love tech, as I love the 19th century alchemy lab that is my studio. It can seem a paradox, tech mixed with age old brews of painting mediums and antique tools. But in truth it isn’t, a paradox, I mean. It is all just tools. A means to an end.
Certainly, tech helps us publicize ourselves better—gets us out there in the world, maybe not easier but in a different way. But tech also works the other way by bringing the world into our studio. When we need to see how to draw a horseshoe crab or a classic Indian motorcycle, we can skip over to the web to find out.
Another of the great wonders of our age is that artists in remote areas of the world can now keep in touch in a very real, if virtual way. Grabbing a brew at a pub is, maybe, better but hey, I’ll take both
Born in Maine. Grew up in Mexico. Lived in Seattle, and a bit in the south. And now back in Maine. I’ve been selling artwork in all these places and everywhere in between.
I paint, that’s what I do. Oh, and dance with my wife, and hike, and canoe, and grow a few bonsai trees…and paint.
I paint a lot of murals. I recently completed a new 21 foot mural commissioned by the city of Bath, Maine. The theme is the “Spirit of Bath” which, wraps around the history of shipbuilding in this City of Ships.
In 2015 I finished a 14 x 40-foot mural for the new Capital Judicial Center in Maine’s state capital—showing the maritime history of the Kennebec River with people, ships, history.
Over the years I have created many murals. Working big is fabulous. However, I have also worked small, illustrating over 30 books and 100’s of illustrations for periodicals, painting miniatures, carving block prints, drawing etchings and monotypes. I love making things.
As a young artist, I started out as a sculptor in Guadalajara, Mexico, carving masks, and modeling figures in clay. But I found the lure of the brush too much to resist. And the best advice given to me back then by an old Disney mat artist was, “Draw, draw, draw”.
I have exhibited in galleries and exhibitions in Maine, Massachusetts, Mexico, Seattle and New York City. As an illustrator I have worked for Hearst Books, William Morrow, Greenwillow Books, Random House and Down East Books of Maine. And creating sets and playbills for our local theater is just plain fun.
Born in Maine, I can claim Maine ‘native’ status but in truth I lived away a lot. My bones are solidly New England stock but my blood carries the dusts of years in Mexico…and a bit of rust from the damp Pacific Northwest as well.
I currently live with my wife and fellow painter, Jen Greta Cart, in Hallowell, Maine.