Eloquent Observation – Tina Ingraham

By Britta Konau

Maine Home & Design Magazine

June 2012

Tina Ingraham created her first oil painting in sixth grade.  That precocious talent has transformed itself into a thriving career painting portraits, figures, landscapes, and still-lifes.

Ingraham considers herself classically trained, and to this day she continues to hone her figurative drawing skills from live models and paints only from observation.  For a recent series of works documenting the slow transformation of an eroding dune at Phippsburg’s Popham Beach, the artist revisited the site two years in a row.

Ingraham’s still-lifes focus exclusively on food—cakes, pies, fruits, and vegetables—in indeterminate settings.  While the items appear luscious and juicy, the application of paint is sparing. Each brushstroke is deliberately placed without hesitation, and highlights are carefully considered.  Since the artist paints only from life, larger canvases sometimes take several growing seasons, for example, to capture the freshness of a particular produce.
Because she grew up on a farm, Ingraham is intimately familiar with the production of food, its connection to the land, and its growing cycle.  Informed by her experience, the artist’s still-lifes informally ponder our relationship to food and the earth it comes from.

Additionally, Ingraham’s food portraits suggest a range of emotions.  Her fruits and vegetables have personalities—a brooding cabbage, cheerily babbling cherries, a bunch of beets that look like gnarled old men.  In short, she anthropomorphizes her subjects.  “I’m a figurative painter,” Ingraham explains.  In Beets and Scallions, bunches of green onions and beets lie parallel to the picture plane, looking fresh and full of vitality.  The orderly and elongated elegance of the scallions contrasts with the jumble of rotund beets embodying greatly differing characters.  Their placement may also suggest reclining human figures, and so it is not surprising to learn that Ingraham’s still-lifes have inspired a group of paintings of people resting on the beach.