Abbe and Harriet stand side by side when they work on a mutual painting. Yes, they create their own work, but since 1998 they have also collaborated on works by a “Third Artist.” Abbe lives in New York City, Harriet in Cabin John, Maryland; they alternate cities. Together two artists create a third aesthetic:
Harriet: I begin a drawn composition, and work the composition, with a linear approach, like a map of how to get there.
Abbe: I start by approaching the depth of field at the same time and in the same way as I approach the color. I try small vague studies at first, in order to see the whole, and to feel what will happen with the paint, and where the problems will arise. I don’t solve anything any further than that, I stop, and we both begin to combine what we’ve just done.
What they create, says Abbe, “neither would have imagined alone.”
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Abbe Stahl Steinglass paints both landscapes and abstracts. While an abstraction begins as “diagrams of ideas” that become symbols and metaphors to tell a story, landscapes appear real. She paints city views looking out from her studio in Lower Manhattan; beaches on Cape Cod; forests and hills in the Berkshires. When Abbe focuses on objects and form, she aims for a deep perspective.
Harriet W. Lesser started as a poet. Gradually, images conjured by the words became her primary focus. When painting, she sees her canvas as a flat plane and eschews perspective; she “manipulates line and negative space.” Harriet explores new media, but never loses a connection with more classical processes – “an interesting tightrope.” Her current work combines drawing, painting, Polaroid transferring and monoprinting.
The Third Artist may not exist, but the works are substantial and quite different from the ones Abbe and Harriet produce alone. Together, they hash out their differences; they talk; they even paint over each other’s work. Watching each other’s developing work, as if they were doing this simultaneously, they are “correcting the course” the way a skipper steers a ship.
During the process as the Third Artist emerges, all the elements of their singularity and their collaboration fuse. Think of these images as a puzzle: see if you can figure out where the Third Artist comes from. Visit their website, abbeandharriet.com for more clues.