I’ve been a slacker. Back in 2013, I vowed to improve my knowledge of art and art history because they are subjects I love. I wish I had studied them while in college. Unfortunately life and procrastination has caused my efforts to self-instruct to dwindle.
In October 2014, I decided to push myself harder in my independent artistic studies. This new fervor was ignited by an article on Richard Estes on Smithsonian magazine’s website. I had no idea who Richard Estes was but the photo of his painting was enough to convince me to visit an exhibit of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The photo of his painting seemed to be a photo of a photo, and I disbelieved that it was of a painting. Hence my decision to visit the exhibit was more for proof than to gain any sort of artistic instruction.
After showing up at the wrong museum, I finally found my way to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and slowly browsed other paintings before visiting Estes’ exhibit. All the while, my music blasted in my ears (something by Jamaican dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel, which is probably highly out-of-place for a museum excursion) and I slowly danced from one painting to another until I danced up to the entrance to Estes’ exhibit.
I actually read this time. I usually don’t read much at museums, which means I miss a lot of useful information. Usually, I dance from painting to painting (I always have music blasting in my ears while at a museum), lingering over the ones I admire while wondering what drove the artist to create the piece, how did the artist apply his medium, and how long did it take to complete, amongst other thoughts. But this time I paused my music. I was enraptured by Estes’ work. The reason being that even with his huge canvas of the Brooklyn Bridge in front of me, I still found it hard to tell that his piece is a painting rather than a blown-up photo.
Richard Estes is a photorealist painter. He was born in Kewanee, Ill., and studied fine arts at the Institute of Chicago. After graduating, he moved to New York, where he worked as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer at various magazines. At night, he would work on his paintings, which later became his full-time career.