Joyce Polance Vespertine (2004)
36.0 x 48.0 x 0.0
University Club of Chicago

Joyce polance  vespertine120

Visualizing the intangible, such as the emotional connection of intimacy, the mental turmoil of self-criticality, and the power of love and kindness are ethereal goals many artists strive to achieve in their career. Yet Joyce Polance has harnessed the ability to visualize these immaterial, emotional qualities in her paintings of women, relationships, and the human figure. Joyce Polance (b. 1965) received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and also attended Wesleyan University.

In school, she studied illustration and work in commercial arts, but, after feeling unfulfilled, Polance quit and in 1998 began painting. Polance works predominantly in oil paint, creating large scale, multi-figure compositions. Her practice focuses on the nude female form and explores depicting the strength that can be found in vulnerability and personal transformation. Her process often entails working with life models, who are usually her friends, photographing their sessions, and painting from the unplanned emotional tone of the session.

Polance stated that feminism played a large role in her life and work, and in a contemporary time of oversaturated hyper-sexualized images of women used in the media, and unprecedented pressure on girls to fit rigid standards of beauty, Polance stands as a distinct voice in Chicago’s art community by portraying women embracing female support and accepting their bodies and sexual power. Polance painted the majority of her female figures nude as a way to represent their vulnerability and self-acceptance.

Her early work was very realistic and documented the details and fleshy quality of her subject. Later, she shifted into more abstract compositions. Her work is exhibited widely and she received multiple grants, including the Community Arts Assistance Program from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Vespertine (2004) is a composition built up from the thick layering of heated wax and oil paint across the canvas surface.

From that build-up of material, Polance cut and scraped down into the surface, exposing the amalgamation of wax and paint.

The title of the work, “Vespertine,” is a scientific term indicating something that happens only in the evening, for example, a flower that blooms only in the evening hours of dusk before the sun fully sets. The work is from early in Polance’s painting career and depicts a single female figure in a white dress reclining in a chair within an abstract space.

The female reclines in a large, deep orange chair, resting her right cheek softly on her shoulder, gazing outward towards the viewer. The color palette around and within the female figure is warm and portrays the golden red and orange tones that come from the setting sun in evening light.

Color also pulls the focus of the composition onto the female’s face, as the deep red glow of her right side contrasts the pale green and yellow highlights on her left and the light off-white color of the strap of her dress. Polance’s gestural marks and textured strokes are evident across the female form, which pulls the illusion of space and background forward onto the canvas surface.

Beginning at the female’s upper torso and arm, the wax medium is built up into a pattern of small-scale abstract flowers or plant life that sit atop the canvas, adding a texture overtop of the figure, which cascades across her torso.

The flowered, textured surface undulates towards the right side of the canvas and melts into the smooth textured liquescence of wax and oil paint that traverses the right side of the canvas. There, layers of light white, yellow, and blue melt downwards across deeper shades of green, black, and blue, washing away any sense of space within the portrait scene.

Scratches are dug into the layers of wax, which expose the darker under-colors and also create new blended tones. The left side of the canvas, surrounding the female figure, also unmasks sliced reductions into the built up surface.

The scene around her is softening, blending, and distressing as she calmly reclines, gazing out with a tranquil demeanor. In this, as Vespertine’s surface bleeds and flows away, it evokes that sense of how fleeting and temporal moments in time can be.

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