White pigment is a recurrent feature in the work of Wayne Thiebaud. He uses it as a bright ground beneath his pastel-heavy palettes, or as light that falls sharply onto his carefully rendered forms simultaneously from overhead and the side. White sheets of Somerset textured paper provide the light in Clown Memories, a new suite of six hard-ground etchings with drypoint made at Crown Point Press. The plates are wiped clean to preserve the white of the paper against black etched line; the handling of these airy drawings is surprisingly abstemious for the artist who transforms oil paint into cream frosting.
The clown fits into Thiebaud’s repertoire as comfortably as one of his cakes or pies and has long percolated in his consciousness. As a boy of 12 or 13, Thiebaud and his pals gained free entry into the touring circus if they fed the animals and put up the tents. He recalls meeting the famous circus clown Emmett Kelly, whose down-and-out “Weary Willie” character was based on the hobos of the Great Depression. Thiebaud saw Kelly come out in ragged clothes and try to sweep the spotlight up into a dustpan.1
- 1. Quoted by Kathan Brown in the Crown Point Press newsletter, Fall 2017.