I’m Your Venus, I’m Your Fire

JoAnne Artman Gallery
Jun 19, 2020 2:57PM

80s British pop group Bananarama said it best in their hit ‘Venus.’ “Goddess on the mountain top, Burning like a silver flame, The summit of beauty and love, And Venus was her name.” The goddess inspires both love and desire, and her image has been captured in many incarnations.

Michael Callas
Venus in Pink, 2020
JoAnne Artman Gallery

Serving as the inspiration and reference figure for Michael Callas’ Venus in Pink is Sandro Botticelli’s famous rendition of the beautiful goddess. In Venere, Botticelli shows Venus from the bust up. A similar looking Venus also stars in Botticelli’s best known, as well as most controversial painting, The Birth of Venus. Originally meant to hang above a marital bed, the sinfully sensuous work has long been hailed as one of Botticelli’s masterpieces.

Sandro Botticelli, Venere (Venus) half body detail.

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, 1486. Uffizi, Florence

The sensational story behind both versions of Venus is that the model was the love of Botticelli’s life, Simonetta Vespucci. Tragically dying of tuberculosis at 22 years of age, Botticelli continued rendering her likeness in his work even after her death, including her in numerous paintings until the end of his life when he requested to be buried at her feet at the church of the Vespucci in Florence. Hailed as the most beautiful woman in Florence, as well as of the Renaissance, Simonetta was Botticelli’s very own Venus. The artist’s unrequited love for the young woman transformed the visual landscape of his time, and her beauty continues to captivate viewers to this day.

In Callas’ version, he closely crops the composition from the Birth of Venus, choosing to focus on the delicate facial features and wind blown locks. Reimagining the classic image in a bold palette of bright salmon pink and aquamarine tresses.

“I have been working on appropriations of Old Master’s paintings for some time. Workings with these pieces are among my favorite type of paintings to do,” says Callas.

Rooted in Pop art, street art, graphic design, and his life in Southern California, Michael Callas’ paintings are done with spray paint and precise stencil work. Intricately produced through a rigorous process of drafting, mapping, and hand-cutting precise templates before being transposed onto canvas with aerosol paints, Callas creates a surface that is uniform and rich in color. Remaining true to his practice, Callas meticulously maps out color planes of saturated hues and gray tones, crafting dimensionality and dramatic light sources on his subjects. Applying his distinct approach of working in aerosols to the traditional oil paintings of the Renaissance, Callas explores the famous character archetypes and narratives throughout art history.

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JoAnne Artman Gallery