Mary Barnes-Gingrich

Women Orchestral Musicians Series Symphony Nr. 1 The Four Women Violists of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
oil on linen
50 x 72 in.

As a former professional musician, I witnessed the gradual inclusion of women into every segment of the music field. This work is the twelfth painting in a series documenting the lives and times of women who professionally play classical orchestral instruments. The entry point of the painting for the viewer begins at the tip of the viola bow on the table at the right. The narrative (content) of the painting is impacted by a complex underlying structure of rectangles and triangles. As well, there are many repeated motifs. For example, the pictorial dynamics of the four women are mirrored by the still life in front of them. The apple is separated from the rest of the fruit, as the violist on the right is separated from the other three. The bread cascades to the left, while the direction of the scrolls on the violas cascade to the right.

There are many shapes and lines throughout this work intended to translate visual elements to the elements of music. To symbolize rhythm, repeated lines occur in the paneling, table and floor, becoming more spontaneous on the skirt of the figure seated at the right of the table. (Art and music often includes the unexpected.) The performance of the music they are studying at the table is the goal for these women musicians. The room depicted at the right of the painting, painted in blue tones, represents this performance experience as a transcendent space, as opposed to the earthly existence of the four women as they study in the wood paneled room. The scroll of the figure on the right actually crosses over the door of the room in the distance, foreshadowing the connection of the women to this experience.

Each woman suggested a personal symbol for me to include which are hanging on the wall behind them; a portion of a grandmother’s quilt, an oak leaf, a Norwegian painted plate, and an antique kimono. (hung in the blue room) The hangings complete the geometric vocabulary by adding squares, a circle and a rectangle. The women are studying scores by Mozart, a master of form and content. By creating this painting, It was my intention to unite the beauty of the classical era with these contemporary professional women.

© Mary Barnes-Gingrich