Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image

“I am interested in emulating the art of other epochs with which I feel an affinity, and without apology,” says Los Angeles artist Ruth Weisberg. Weisberg’s appreciation for the history of art is a particularly intimate one, as seen through the lens of her own experience as a painter-printmaker. Implicit in Weisberg’s work is the assertion that contemporary art is not separable from the art of earlier periods. She says: “Art history becomes part of the imaginative life of the artist; we are in what I call a ‘dialogue’ with the past.”

Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image features Weisberg’s new series inspired by Cagnacci’s powerful Martha Rebuking Mary for Her Vanity (after 1660), one of the Norton Simon Museum’s most important Baroque paintings. Weisberg’s dialogue with Cagnacci’s masterpiece began in 2006. Contemplating this painting, Weisberg created a series of more than 20 paintings, monumental drawings and monotypes.

Cagnacci’s ambitious pictorial narrative weaves together a number of emotive themes, including repentance, anger and the triumph of virtue over vice—all of which were topical subjects during the Catholic Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries. Weisberg explores and transforms these themes through the tradition of figurative art and the personal arena of memory and relationships. Indeed, she depicts herself and her family members as Cagnacci’s characters. In so doing, the artist reconfigures the emotional power of a specific reference by modifying it through her own beliefs and experiences.