Crumbling Pier
Pamela Talese
oil on linen, 20" x 24";  $4500
Exhibited at Village West in the Under the Influence show, Fall 2016

Dock Builders (1916)
George Bellows
Inspiration piece for Pamela Talese for the
Under the Influence show, Fall 2016

"The paintings of George Bellows -- bold depictions of New York's colorful urban life in working class neighborhoods -- find an echo in my own subject matter. For the last 15 years I have painted ships, wharves, and utilitarian structures in Brooklyn and Queens, and so the George Bellows retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013 amped up my admiration.

I visited the show four times to indulge my fascination with the artist's ability to lay down great swaths of paint, blobs of buttery pigment, chunks of bright light, scrubbed in shadows, all sorts of material mess on the surface when seen up close, yet two steps back an alchemical rearrangement occurred. The slashing strokes fused together in balanced beauty. And across the room, the pictures positively sang!

When I encountered this scene of a pier collapsing into the water and began to paint it on location, what called to me was the bright color, the jagged arrangement of concrete, brick, metal weeds, in textural contrast to the serene skyline across the water. In my own work, I can err on the finicky side, and noticed as I worked that in my hard-nosed quest for accuracy, the picture was losing its verve. What it needed was some Bellows vigor and devil-may-care bravura, so I made the following changes:

Working inside the studio instead of on site, I repainted the entire picture in two ways. First, I tackled color by following the recommendations of Robert Henri, George Bellows' teacher. Henri promoted the use of triads: color harmonies and complex color chords of multiple intensities which he created after meeting colorist named H.G. Maratta in 1909. [Maratta developed an artist's palette that related to the keys of a piano. Bellows himself is quoted as saying he used "...a paint piano" to achieve the vitality of color in his work.] I therefore banished earth tones from the palette and used instead a scale of colors in the spectrum band listed here: Cadmium Red Scarlet, Orange Vermilion, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Viridian, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine,Alizarin Crimson.

Next, I used only bristle brushes and avoided anything smaller than ¼ inch; these were only introduced at the end to paint the scattered bricks. While I suspect Bellows would have thrown down a pile of terracotta rectangles with a brush the size of a broom, I have yet to develop this skill myself. In mixing combinations from the above pigments, the painting seemed more vibrant than it had. And as the drawing loosened up, the composition more accurately embodied the energy I had felt outside -- the sun beating down on the waterlogged pylons that had once held the concrete pier and everything on it aloft."

If you are interested in purchasing this work, please contact Pamela Talese or visit


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