“When I apply pigment, the dyes bleed and spill into the surface—it’s simultaneously gorgeous and gross, inherently visceral,” Riesing said. While she views skin as its own kind of canvas, with its “tattoos, moles, rashes, formal abstractions that occur within the frame of the figure,” Semmel offered the opposite analogy. “The canvas is the skin of the painting,” she said. “Color floods that skin and becomes flesh.” Though paint can “lose itself in the sensuousness of the subject,” she continued, “it always returns to the integrity of its own nature.”
In other words, a viewer first encountering any figurative painting might first see the skin of the subject. Yet close, repeated glimpses provide insight into how the painting was made, stroke by stroke, by a single artist in the studio. Such careful looking ultimately exposes what might be considered the opposite of a fixed outer layer: a dynamic, creative consciousness at work.