Nora Byrne
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Words

Arts, Arabic, Adventures

Kate Doyle sums up my life in one painting.

This is a bit of a deviation from what I normally write, but I just received some photos from Kate Doyle and I was just dying to write about one of them. This is the first finished painting that I modeled for, stemming from reference pictures taken with one of my good friends Lisa. The painting is on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art and will be auctioned off on the 19th. I am planning on heading out there next weekend to see it, a work of Simon Harling's, and some of the oak plates that filled the studio last time I was there.

But you saw it here first. Daydream by Kate Doyle, 2013 on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art

What first strikes me is how much the painting is in Kate's style. How many of those huge canvases covered in brightly colored celebrations of sentimental moments had I helplessly gazed up at while in a pose? I know the delightfully crinkled fabrics, the far-away gazes. I've laid in a pile of props used in the painting, know the carefully rendered, tactile quality of the skin that is seemingly realistic but with a brightness never achievable in reality. It is a style, an artistic voice that I am familiar with, and now I am part of it.

Every figure I had always thought of as fictional, each archetype of the carefree dreamy girl, I am now her. My body has been taken into the world of Kate's paintings to curl drunkenly in a bed of yellow cotton and grass. There is something Rococo in Kate's work, an ode to the leisure time of those who choose to find only beauty in the world.

Yet her work has an element of human exploration that I love. When directing us in the studio, Kate tried to get us to embody two different sides of one person. Lisa was the seriously reflective thoughtful side of someone and I the part of them that solely wants to play. I, an example of a people only concerned with their own amusement and Lisa, a foil to the idea of unfettered enjoyment. My detached gaze next to Lisa's alert eyes. All this without judgement, not a declaration of good or bad, simply a foray into understanding the existence of those two sides.

The painting's relatability is one of its most charming elements. My own favorite element of Daydream is that the figure based on Lisa looks shockingly like my older sister. In trying to explain what she wanted out of her reference photos, Kate had asked me to be like the mischievous, curious little kid, the antsy adventurous side of the person Lisa and I were attempting to co-form. I couldn't help but use those moments my sister made me look foolish, those times she gave out orders and I happily followed along. In Daydream Nora, I see that careless girl depending on someone more in command, more responsible to take care of business while she enjoys life. Kate found that element in my body language and brought it into her painting. I laughed when I saw the bottle of wine, because it so perfectly captures my desire to be careless and fun, barefoot and stretched out in the sun. It blows my mind that Daydream Lisa even looks like the woman who holds that role in my life.

But the very relatability that I like makes it easy to take the painting out of the confines of my own experience. The anonymity that comes with changing out appearance to not be strict portraits takes my own personal experience out of every part of the painting but that one figure. That girl isn't me; she's a demonstration of a quality that every girl possesses, myself included. Every girl can look at that painting of me and see herself in it. Being a part of that is infinitely fascinating and exciting.