Artist Moe Delaitre’s work can be admired in galleries across America including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, The United States Naval Academy and the University of Maryland’s Dental Museum. At one time it also caught the attention of National Geographic and Miramax-Hyperion and it seemed the world was her oyster, but then, like many of us, she came to a crossroads in her life when she had to make a choice. She could continue down a “safe” track, with her established reputation and a client base that included government figureheads and high standing families who were queuing up for their portraits, or take a step into the unknown by moving to France. Moe chose love and moved to Ussy-sur-Marne.
How does portraiture art differ in France to the US?
The French culture looks upon the painted portrait as something “quaint”, from the times of the kings, whereas Americans still have their portraits painted, as the tradition remains deeply seeded, especially in the South.
You have an interesting story about the women in Ussy-sur-Marne.
In Annapolis, Maryland, there is a gallery named 49 West which is very open and uncensored. I wanted to bring a full exhibit back to this gallery, with the idea of sharing what my life and inspirations were here on the farm. I wanted to share the landscape in its truest meaning… the cows, the big sky and the women around me. I decided to ask the women in the village to come to my studio and pose for me. I asked my neighbours, other mothers at my daughter’s school, the babysitter, the baker’s wife…It took 2 years, and I produced 33 paintings of the nude women in Ussy-sur-Marne. It was my way of integrating life in a small village. Now some of these women are my closest friends.
What’s your favourite medium?
I’m classically trained in the old school technique of oil on wood panel, so this is my first love. I also work in pastel, charcoal and I have spent the last two years producing a series of large portraits in spray paint. I am a huge fan of street art, and I decided to meld together my classic technique with modern materials.
Readers may confuse your work with that of the portraitists in Place du Tertre, how does your work differ?
I follow the very old tradition of portraiture when the artist would move in with the family for the duration of the portrait, thus getting a true glimpse of a life. I participate in their daily rhythms, everything from dining out and going to a movie, to the mundane task of folding clean laundry. Then I draw three small cartoons (studies) of the ideas I have for the portrait. Once the decision is made on the composition of the painting, I begin working from life, making studies and first attempts. I then hide away in my own studio at the farm for months painting. When the portrait is nearly complete, I sit with the subject again and finish from life. Portraitists in Montmartre will send you home with your finished portrait in 15 minutes, but for the 9 months it takes me to paint a full portrait I’m trying to capture more than a likeness- I’m trying to capture a soul.
Tell us about your current exhibition at the AUP Fine Arts Gallery.
I lobbied the curator, Ralph Petty, to give me a chance to exhibit my new series of paintings, “Effrontées. Portraits à la bombe.” – nine large portraits of women who caught my attention when I was very young. Painting their portraits in spray paint on farming machine boxes was very liberating. The series has helped me accept that my American way of life and painting is changing in form, content and inspiration.
What do you have planned next?
I have immense appreciation for the street graffiti artists who produce arresting images that make us stop in our tracks. It’s a physical activity as much as a cerebral one. I am searching for a street graffiti artist in Paris to help me paint the side of a building at the farm. A traditional portrait-in-a-landscape image, 30×50 meters.
Enter the competition to win a portrait by Moe (competition ends 25/10/2015) here