A Best-in-Show Painting That’s Wrapped Up in Red

Rouge Retro, mixed media, by M.M. Panas. Winner of the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award for Best in Show.

“Monochrome” in art means a work executed in one color or values of one color. It’s an approach that can focus the viewer’s attention, create a specific mood, or, as in the above painting, grab attention with line, texture, and an eye-popping red.

Maria Marguerita (M.M.) Panas is the artist. She took home the Shayna Heisman Simkin Award for Best in Show for Rouge Retro, a mixed-media painting that measures five feet across. It’s inspired by architecture, furniture, and a specific upholstery fabric.

Here’s what the artist had to say about the piece:

What was your goal for Rouge Retro?
M.M. Panas: The boldness of mid-century architecture and furniture design have always inspired me. My ambition was to create a work of art that I thought would look fantastic in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Richard Neutra or any of the other great architects I have lovingly admired.

Rouge Retro (detail) by M.M. Panas.

Why red?
In particular, a Knoll fabric called “Cato in Fire Red” is one of my all time favorites. I love the way light changes the reds of the three elements in this fabric. My plan was to work on canvas but add texture, to be bold but also subtle. It was a challenge to create something that was monochromatic but interesting.

I tried all kinds of reds and settled on what became my three favorite red paints: Lascaux Pyrolle Red, Cadmium Red Medium, and Cadmium Red Light. I used these colors and added line and texture to the piece by adding fabrics that were soaked in the paints, wrapping and twisting them across the canvas. I started with small canvases (20” x 24”), joined these together to create a larger piece. It was extremely messy and time consuming but oh! What fun!

Knoll Cato in Fire Red fabric was my inspiration:

Is this part of your “Wraps” series?
Yes, this is one of my “Wraps.” I have done pieces in yellow, blue, and others in red.

What materials did you use to make this painting?
Canvas, linen, cotton, gauze, baby wipes (yes — baby wipes), and acrylic paint.

Chain Lightning (right) by M.M. Panas, part of our November 2016 “MiniMAX” exhibit

How does the process of creating a “Wraps” painting compare to your more action-oriented paintings?
Surprise is always a big element in my work. Starting with a loose plan, I work at what I am doing and use whatever happens to create a pleasing end product. When creating an “action” painting, I have several canvases in front of me that I work on at the same time, applying paint with a brush.

Black and White by M.M. Panas

The “Wraps,” because of the mess caused by the amount of paint applied with a large spatula, made me work outdoors, on a table, over drop cloths. I stretched and twisted the extra fabric and stapled it to the smaller canvases. Afterwards, I combined the small canvases in a pleasing way, bolted them together, put the (now) larger piece on a wall and did any finishing touches needed.

Sarsens, mixed media, by M.M. Panas

What are you working on now?
I have seven blank canvases waiting for me at my studio. My plan is to use a monochromatic or very limited palette. I’d also like to do a “Wrap” in black.

The August Open Exhibit, juried by Stephanie Midon, is open through Sunday, September 2.

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