Look Closer: Baby Doll Lounge

Baby Doll Lounge, Richard Estes 1978

Did you take this picture in Tribeca?

I love it there, you know their farmers market on the weekends?

Oh wait, it’s a painting? Oh wow.

No it’s not you’re messing with me.

How is it so detailed? I can’t believe it’s not a photograph.

I chose to write this very short, one-sided line of questioning to reflect how I felt when I first saw the painting and didn't realize for several minutes that it’s not a photograph. Estes’s brushwork defines photorealism and captures a scene so powerfully, while also creating a pleasant, casual viewing experience to those who don’t look beyond the surface. What I would say is his most impressive skill is his ability to paint reflections so well, as they tend to be prominent in most of his works. Estes is a classically trained and highly skilled painter, not a folk painter by any means, and I would argue that his painting is in fact art as opposed to artlike, because of the skill involved. The subtlety of his work requires a viewer to take a closer look to develop a real appreciation for it. It’s an easy piece to overlook if you don’t stop to take it in, which adds to it’s meaning by becoming something that not everyone notices, almost as if Estes is nodding to those who are really watching.

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Carlos Mendez

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