You may not know every last thing about the person you're interviewing before the interview actually takes place, but generally you do know the subject's name. "Just call me Scatt," said our subject recently, when I asked the question he said he knew would be the first - "What is your name, anyway?"
I've seen his name written as G. A. Scattergood-Moore, Scattergood-Moore, and Scattergood. During our recent interview, he did confide what the G. and the A. stand for - but then he recoiled at having the information in the newspaper. He doesn't want his real names published any more than a ballerina what to see her real age in print.
But maybe if you ask him in person, he'll tell you. He's available this weekend, when Scattergood-Moore, as we'll call him, participates in the 11th annual Waltham Open Studios.
Some 60 artists from four groups - Artists West Studios, Moody Station Studios, River Street Studios, and Waltham Studios - welcome the public to their working spaces Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m. The studios are in an historic mill complex at 144 Moody St., near the center of town.
This will be the last Waltham Open Studios for Scattergood-Moore. He has bought a condominium in the former Claflin School in Newton, which is being converted into artist' living and working spaces. He said he'll miss both the camaraderie and the ethnic restaurants of Waltham, but it wouldn't be practical to pass up the chance for a secure space.
The Waltham artists run the style, subject and media gamut. Some of the ways they identify their work on the Open Studios brochure are provocative. Wendy Seller, for instance, produces "spirituality/oils." Oz Freedgood makes "wild creative art." Mitchell Kamen does "fearful symmetries."
Scattergood-Moore, who calls himself just Scattergood on the brochure, keeps his medium identification at a minimum. He makes "drawings," period. Some of those drawings were recently on view at the Newton Arts Center, where I talked with the artist, who giggling and chewing gum, announced that "I don't want my image to be as serious as some of the work is."
The work was portraiture, of a type that is not all that popular these days: realistic at its core, exposing the subject's weak points both physical and psychological. The subjects were other artists: the Boston painter John Jagel, and the celebrated British painters Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Scattergood-Moore and Jagel had a year's worth of weekly sessions in which they drew each other. "I wondered if I had the guts to really get to know an older male artist," Scattergood-Moore said.
Such continued exposure to one subject tends to produce a deeper level of work than the portrait that depends on only a couple of sittings, and Scattergood-Moore's pictures of Jogel are haunting. Jagel looks worn down; the skin is sunk over his bones.
Although Scattergood-Moore's portraits in the Newton show were in black and white, Jagel looked especially gray and monochromatic, while the starker tomes in the portraits of Freud and Bacon implied color even if no color were really there. Scattergood-Moore borrowed the images of Freud and Bacon from photographs in catalogs, but "For detail, I'd look at myself." he said. "Ultimately, they're probably as much portraits of me as of Freud and Bacon."
In the strong charcoal "Portrait of Lucian Freud as Muse and Mentor," Freud's body seems to struggle against sinking into the paper, except for a knee that juts boldly forward. A Freud portrait subtitled "The Light" shows the artist staring so intently at the viewer that the viewer wants to back off. The light surrounding Freud's head makes a halo out of the top of his hair. and this seems no accident: There is a religious solemnity about much of Scattergood-Moore's work.
There is also, in this tradition-grounded work, a very up-to-the-minute concern with framing the picture. A delicately drawn frame within a frame appears in some of the portraits. It serves to "lock the figure into an existential space." And the frame serves as a sort of moral boundary; "In a non-religious world," said the artist, "man needs something to hold everything together."
The insecurity of the modern world is a theme in a particularly dramatic portrait ofFreud against a velvety black ground. An antiques gilded frame whose egg and dart detail is broken off in several places contains the figure, which is so ethereal that you get the feeling he's in danger of dissolving. Scattergood-Moore described the work as "a twisting figure in a void with a classical frame that's falling apart."
The frame for the Freud portrait isn't at the drawing's edge. A couple of inches of the drawing project beyond it. This technique was inspired by two young Boston Artist, Doug and Mike Starn, who approach framing with creative irreverence.
Scattergood-Moore has been drawing and painting the figure since his school days. He was born in Newton, his mother dying in childbirth. His father's name was Scattergood; while in high school, the artist added the hyphen and his mother's maiden name, in homage to her. The mother he never knew was herself an accomplished artist. He was raised by aunts on Long Island and Cape Cod.
He recalls that in high school, "It was a toss-up whether I'd be a saxophone player or an artist." Art won, in part because he didn't like performing in public. "I feel I've only conquered that fear in the last few weeks, in giving gallery talks about my show."
He went to the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, where he did a painting of a doll hanging by a string that was the cause of controversy in the local press. "Someone wrote to the New Bedford paper that it was the work of a sicko." At Swain, "There were six teachers for about the same number of art majors, so for me, as a kid who needed a sense of family, it was great."
After Swain, he studies at Boston University and at the Universiyt of Cincinnati, because it offered him a large fellowship and the chance to study with painter Herbert Barnett, whose Cezannesque spaces he admired.
In 1969, he moved from Cincinnati to the Boston area, and signed on as head of the art department at Dana Hall, a private girls' school in Wellesley where he still teaches. His art was realistic and developed a political bent. Shows of work by Bacon and Freud exerted a tremendous influence on him. "The physicality of the paint in Bacon's work blew my mind. Seeing it was very scary for me, almost like seeing a car accident."
A Freud show a few years ago affected him so powerfully that he stopped painting altogether, because "My paint seemed so dead." So he focused on drawing instead, using his art heroes, whom he has never met, as frequent subjects.
Scattergood-Moore is one of those talented artists who isn't represented by a gallery, although he would welcome the chance to have someone else market his work. We'd welcome more commissions, too. One recent commission is a portrait of the late conductor Arthur Fiedler, his baton swinging an arc through the air, that is prominently displayed in International Place, the controversial new downtown office complex.
In his virtually nonexistent spare time, the artist said he concentrates on relaxing. "I'm lightening up!" He announced. "Look at this shirt I'm wearing, with he dogs on it. I don't feel that I have to wear a black turtleneck all the time any more!"