July 6, 2015

A New Boxed Paintings: "Alphabet" (for Al Held)

Alphabet, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, box size 3 1/4 x 5 3/4 in.

I've just completed a new work in my series of very small paintings inside a box, this one on the theme of the alphabet (you can see a previous work here, with links to others) Letters are symbols and their shapes are interesting abstractions.

Alphabet, top and inside of box

I tried to find a combination of letters for the top of the box that wouldn't read as a word (or a well-known tv show) and that would be visually engaging. But ah well, the inside of the box: do you mind the love and kisses?

Al Held, The Yellow X, 1965; acrylic on canvas, 144 1/2 x 178 in.

I stole the idea of using the alphabet to make abstractions from Al Held. A couple of years ago, Cheim & Read gallery mounted an exhibition of his Alphabet paintings, and it was a powerful show of what their press release rightly called "monumental paintings". They have been in my mind ever since.

Alphabet, paintings side 1, ca. 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 in.

My very small images have very little in common with those of Al Held, but I enjoyed the challenge of trying to see some letters in a new way. It isn't easy to remove their ready associations; letters are so insistently themselves.

Alphabet, paintings side 2, ca. 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 in.

Because the parchment is translucent, I try to have a visual relationship between the image on each side. And although I a box usually contains 12 little paintings, with an alphabet of 26 letters, this box has 13.


  1. Altoon-

    These letters are very fun! I like the R,J, and K best I think but also appreciate them altogether as a whole. The box is a good idea too-the grouping seems like a little family somehow. Alphabets in general make for great drawing resources don't they? Coincidentally, I have been sketching using the Hebrew alphabet as a basis for starting-both block and script letters. Lots of wonderful shapes and lines:)

    ***I found your blog and work through Pinterest and thought I might say hello (finally). I have been steadily reading through the posts and am just so excited about the content. I am a little in love with the hooked textiles! Along with the photos, the potato prints and drawings, I am enjoying absorbing your sensibilities. All of the artwork (from shows or museums as well as your own work) has been wonderful to see. It's been instructive and I just wanted to say thank you.

    Libby Fife

    1. Thank you so much, Libby. I'm pleased that you're enjoying the blog.