The painting is a puzzle in itself — it's tough to know exactly what Dawson is going for. Dawson and Ingres both work with portraiture. But while Ingres is painstakingly committed to physical accuracy, Dawson focuses on the action of painting. His brushstrokes emote energy and movement. Ingres' painting is about the sitter while Dawson's work is about the artist. I wonder: Is it what Dawson imagines Ingres might have painted had he the choice? Is it Dawson's insight into the mind of an artist alive during a time of stricter painting principles? It's a complex and compelling piece with a lot of guesswork.

Ingres Puzzle by John Dawson
Courtesy of Mesa Contemporary Arts
Ingres Puzzle by John Dawson

Though my thoughts were certainly provoked by the depth of these pieces, it was work like Martha that stood out. When Dawson cuts the chaos and focuses on one simple figure, he's most effective. It's like a karate chop to your consciousness that will leave you mesmerized.

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