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Portrait Of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!

I can't talk to you, but I can freeze you, hold you in this moment and remember you in your most powerful state.

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Portrait Of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!

Clintel Steed

Portrait Of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!
© 2016 theFinch.net & Richard Benari

Cover: Clintel Steed, Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!! 2004 (detail). All images © & courtesy the artist.

My Grandmother was the leader of my community. I grew up around her. I lived with her. The Pastor and the Grandmother. In a way was the same thing. I was very afraid of her as a child and this she knew and even broke it out of me. But this level of respect and always revering how powerful she was has never changed. I know, when I think back on it now, that she did love me. But as I tried to express in the painting, she loved me like she loved all the people in her church, in her Flock.

My Grandmother passed while I was living in Chicago, going to SAIC. I still remember this moment. The only way I could deal with my Grandmother’s death was to paint her. When I was in Chicago, I started to study the Italian Renaissance and I really tried to make the paintings of her feel spiritual.

Some times I feel a hunger to hear my Mom speak of their history, a hunger to see the photos of my history, my Mom’s history.

I had gone back home to Utah around 2003 and was going through some photos with my Mom. Each year I get older I feel like I understand who my Grandmother was even more. Some times I feel a hunger to hear my Mom speak of their history, a hunger to see the photos of my history, my Mom’s history. I saw the photo and knew I had to paint it. It was the last painting I ever made about my Grandmother. I made about seven, maybe, all together from the time she died in 1997 until 2004, when I made this one. When I think about the paintings I made of her — and this last one — I was really saying, “I love you, I miss you. I can’t talk to you, but I can freeze you, hold you in this moment and remember you in your most powerful state. The Holy Place that made everyone love you, follow you.

Clintel Steed Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!! 2004
Clintel Steed, Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!, 2004. Oil on canvas, 136 x 113 in.
Clintel Steed “Portrait…” Detail
Clintel Steed, Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!, 2004 (detail).
Clintel Steed Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!! 2004
Clintel Steed, Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!!, 2004 (detail).

I made this last painting of my Grandmother — Portrait of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!! — at NYSS in 2004. My studio mate was there. I remember preparing the canvas, putting the gesso on and starting the painting. There was music on; my friend was playing it. I started with my Grandmother’s face, her nose and then her lips. My friend came over to see and as I was painting a song came on and said, “I am in heaven now.” My friend freaked out and said, “Dude she is here, she is with us right now. I don’t know, but I will never forget this moment. Every mark I made just came together. Ultimately, out of that painter mentality I moved her face to get the composition I wanted. I needed all the people to be in there, too. But to me, I never got that first feeling I got when I started the piece. I put the wings on the people last. They are Piero Della Francisco wings. To me, the painting needed that. But it also spoke about how all these people around my Grandmother where like angels. The last thing that, to me, is also so very meaningful is that my father’s mother is also in the painting. She is standing on the left side, and I made her crossed eyed because I wanted to express that she is like a 3rd eye. To me, she is a conscious and wise person as well.

This Painting has been in storage since 2004 and I finally got to share it with my peers in 2017.. What an honor it has been!!!

© 2016 theFinch.net & Richard Benari

Clintel Steed lives and works in New York. He is a recipient, most recently, of the the artcritical media prize (2017) and the National Academy of Arts and Letters John Koch Award (2015). Portrait Of My Grandmother!! Feelings of the Holy Spirit!!! (2004) may be viewed as part of “Making Their Mark”, curated by William Norton, at 100 Bogard Street, Brooklyn, NY. (Through 3 December 2017.)

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I fight to stay myself. I do paint a lot of motifs sometimes, I do have a lot of things going on, but I’m always just searching for that purity. I am always trying to be affected by where I am at, where I am standing at the moment. I am using history, I am using my moment. I want to be a sponge in that way. So if it comes out, it comes out. Thinking about Van Gogh: when he was painting those paintings he didn’t know what they were going to be for us in a hundred years, but that constant searching, looking, making is what made him, so somehow that’s the way I want to be, constantly acting and making. Talking about things that are important to me.

Read: “That is What Painters Do. We Look for Subject Matter”: Clintel Steed in conversation with David Cohen, artcritical.com. (Retrieved 22 November 2017.)

After you realize how much Steed loves paint, loves its paste-like physicality, and no doubt loves Rembrandt, whose work practically set the standard for the conversation between paint and image, you realize that he doesn’t have it all figured out. There is an inconsistency to the paintings in the exhibition because he hasn’t has neither perfected his style nor defined his subject matter. Check out Edouard Manet if you want to see the grand heights that inconsistency can reach.

Read: “A Heap of Broken Bodies“, John Yau on Clintel Steed: Endymion | Recent Paintings at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects/SHFAP (7 September – 9 October 2016). In Hyperallergic Weekend, 18 September 2016. (Retrieved 22 November 2017.)

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