Bo Bartlett, Madre del Nenê

Bo Bartlett: Madre del Nene (1990) Oil on linen
Madre del Nenê
Oil on linen
Credit Line
Museum purchase, 2011
70 x 94 in.

Bo Bartlett's Madre del Nenê is grand and monumental, like the historical paintings of the old masters of Western art. It also confronts us with a disturbing narrative. Five figures pose dramatically in a deserted, industrial landscape. Their life-size scale accentuates the scene's realism. Scattered objects -a wheel, a discarded sofa -and the industrial land-scape with its oil tanks and unfinished highway establish an environment of the contemporary world where industrial reality and nature coexist in a discomfiting manner.

On the right a man with his back to us points his finger like a gun at the figures on the left. There, a woman supports a lifeless figure, whose pose and stigmata-like wounds suggest the deposition of Christ (the moment when Christ was removed from the cross). A kneeling man delicately holds the shin of this Christ-like figure. The metal pole suggests the base of a cross. At right, a small boy stares accusingly at us. Does his gaze implicate us in the violence of the scene? Or is it a rebuke for the intrusion into a private or hallowed moment? Bartlett's imagery suggests an unsettling, desolate world populated by victims, compassionate individuals, and perpetrators. Bartlett studied in Italy with Ben F. Long IV and then attended the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), where he earned a Certificate of Fine Art. He studied with Nelson Shanks at PAFA and took anatomical studies at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He later studied film-making at New York University. Bartlett has won numerous awards, including the Ursinus College Distinguished Artist Award (2005); several awards for his documentary on Andrew Wyeth, Snow Hill (1996); and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts (1994).


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