In Michael Prettyman's evocative artwork "As For Me, I Prefer Witches," he employs a 30' x 36' canvas to encapsulate an enigmatic and almost otherworldly scene, steeped in classical motifs while also offering contemporary nuances.
The setting is nighttime, casting a majority of the scene in moody and shadowy tones. This choice of a nocturnal backdrop provides a rich contrast for the elements within and accentuates the mysterious ambience of the piece. A small brush field stretches across the canvas, offering a sense of space and solitude. It is punctuated by three pronounced trees, possibly pine, with their distinctive silhouettes standing tall and formidable against the dark sky, evoking the principles of verticality and emphasis.
Adding to the drama is a fog, colored in a haunting greenish-black hue, that envelops the landscape. The fog, with its ethereal quality, serves as an element of transition, blurring the boundaries between the tangible and the supernatural.
From the left top corner, there emanates a luminous glow, suggesting the presence of the moon, though it remains tantalizingly out of view. This light source introduces an element of chiaroscuro to the piece, playing with light and shadow to generate depth and mood. The moonlight, soft yet potent, becomes an anchor of brightness in the otherwise shadow-dominated canvas.
However, what truly captivates the viewer's gaze is the deep, dark pink circle that seems to encircle the upper branches of the central tree, creating a halo that reaches out into the brilliance of the moonlight. This unusual and almost surrealistic choice of color in a predominantly dark environment introduces an element of contrast, surprise, and focus. It hints at something mystical, perhaps alluding to the title's mention of witches, suggesting energies, rituals, or a portal to another realm.
In "As For Me, I Prefer Witches," Prettyman masterfully blends the classical principles of composition, balance, and emphasis with a thematic depth that invites viewers to delve into the mysteries of nature and the unknown.
MICHAEL PRETTYMAN is a contemporary artist and scholar of comparative religion. He has been a maker his entire life. He is permanently at home in his work, creating a sprawling body of paintings, essays and lectures that bring together his interests in contemporary representational painting within the corpus of world wisdom texts and ideas found in cross-cultural eschatological traditions. Michael’s art practice is concerned with postmodern iterations of classic representational painting as informed by esoteric spiritual practice and study. He pursues his material practice as a meditation, whether it is in drawing, painting or sculpture. He has trained in classical drawing, painting and sculpture at The School of Visual Art, the New York Academy of Art and received advanced instruction in thangka painting at the Tsering School of Art in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has studied Tibetan Buddhist meditation and thangka painting in India, Nepal and in monasteries in Massachusetts and New York. He has a master’s degree in theology from the Harvard Divinity School. He has exhibited drawings and paintings in New York, Hong Kong, Barcelona and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
He has permanent mural installations in the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Gardens, The Bronx Zoo, and St. John’s Church. Michael teaches Religion and the Visual Arts at Hunter College in New York City, and lectures widely on creativity, spiritual practice, mysticism and ideas of the divine. He is currently working on a book about creativity and spiritual practice, as well as body of paintings addressing the Anthropocene Sublime. He lives and works in New York City.