Conversation Piece by Charles Sheeler - Scott Livengood

Conversation Piece by Charles Sheeler

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Conversation Piece is representative of Charles Sheeler’s clean Precisionist style. The flattened industrial architectural forms are layered and transparent in a quasi-Cubist manner. The cool palette of whites and grays is punctuated by a cerulean sky and rich green shrubbery. Although Sheeler used flat angular planes that abstract his subject, the painting remains representational. He maintained this approach throughout his career; it may be rooted in his work as a photographer.

The viewer is confronted with a series of geometric shapes derived from rural architecture. Clearly visible are the cylindrical forms of silos and the triangular gable roofs of barns. Complementing the sheer geometry is the pristine surface of the painting and the absence of narrative elements. No humans or animals are even present. The title, Conversation Piece, is a standard phrase used to describe eighteenth-century portraits with several sitters and relates to many similarly labeled paintings by Sheeler that also bear the prefix “con,” meaning in opposition. Here a traditional agricultural complex is rendered in a mechanistic style.

The painting is from late in Sheeler’s career, a period when the artist was exploring the relationship between memory and perception. In an interview conducted in 1959, Sheeler explained his thought process: “I realized that when we look at an object around us and then walk around among other things we should bring them up to a conscious plane. I didn’t realize it or think of it in that light for some time, but when we look at the next thing in sequence to the first object that we have gazed at, there’s an overtone carried over of what the retina has just recorded. And in my later pictures I make use of that as an element in the final picture.” [1] This interest is evident in Conversation Piece, where the overlapping transparent layers create forms whose solidity is compromised. The layered aesthetic mirrors Sheeler’s artistic process of overlapping photographs onto his panels as the foundation of his compositions. A composite photograph and a tempera painting on which the painting is based were once in the collection of William H. Lane (1914–1995) of Boston. [2]

About Scott Livengood

Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.

Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.