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Botanical Rain: the enduring Endico image



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Updated July 27, 2017 | By Bob Fugett ©2017

Beyond Perfect

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The title, Botanical Rain, merely begins to set the stage.

People who are familiar with the New York Botanical Garden often gasp in recognition when they see the watercolor for the first time.

They say things like, "Hey, I know that bus stop. Know it well. Perfect!"

But here is the problem, or maybe not so much a problem as an indication of the power of the artist's brush to capture the human essence in situations where words and photographs must fail.

The stunning fact is this: though the painting offers a rivetingly correct impression of the bus stop (attested to every day), it does not actually look like the scene portrayed.

No element in Botanical Rain is rendered with detailed accuracy.

Nor are any elements in the painting placed where they are found in reality.

An inspection of the Google 360° surround for that location reveals all the bits and pieces were relentlessly repositioned, time-shifted, and thrust together for a totally unique rendition.

Yet the whole hangs together in such a way as to be breathtakingly recognizable.

To replicate the painting with a camera, one would have to photograph dozens of views from different angles; then carefully abstract selected passages from each shot, and finally recompose the whole by stitching the views together with a little of this here and that there.

Moreover, be mindful that "carefully abstract" in the previous sentence means "very carefully indeed".

In any case, regardless of all that work, the resulting photographic composition would still elicit the same disinterested yawn from viewers as each individual photo alone.

People would freely acquiesce to its inherent photorealistic precision and possibly recognize the final piece as a known location, but they would do so with little interest and sparse comment.

Add the current standard of ultra contrast fine grain digital imaging, and things get worse.

The ho-hum cliché of hyper-fidelity only encourages people to be unmoved and oblivious to the meaning of an image.

Stifled by a glut of overly precise details the motif becomes just another image showing one of thousands of overlooked out-of-the-way bus stops populated by countless numbers of similarly overlooked people.

Conversely, regarding Mary Endico's painting versus a composited photograph, having brushes in hand allowed Mary the freedom to instantly create her highly emotive watercolor by cutting away the fat and rendering it in real time.

In this case real time refers to the evolving memories of the portrayed events, not to the events themselves.

Mary painted Botanical Rain from memory a few hours after her brief drive-by glimpse of the rainy day bus stop.

Furthermore, she fluidly recorded those cascading memories during a visit with her mother.

While engaged in conversation Mary simultaneously flattened the recalled multifaceted three-dimensional objects and their associated somewhat disjointed space-time events into a single two-dimensional static impression.

Seemingly distracted, Mary brandished her brushes as fantastic levers catapulting the truth of the moment to an epitomization of archetypical human experience.

The momentary facts of the bus stop plus the meaningful movements of the creative act that memorialized them were at once preserved in the selfsame brush strokes.

This is the essential transformative act that an artist's brush in a skilled human hand has always accomplished.

Human truth and human interest captured in the same swipe.

Maybe the most significant aspect of Mary's process is the fact that she created Botanical Rain using inexpensive durable materials which are available to anyone.

Sadly, the skills needed to perform at this level are elusive and time consuming to acquire, thus many people choose to believe art is just so much hocus-pocus.

But creating art is quite the opposite of magic: it is applied logic.

The success of Mary Endico is no accident.

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