Once again, my very part time job as a cataloger in the Rare Books & Special Collections Department at Princeton University has supplied me with wonderful source material for painting. This time, instead of fighters’ portraits, I found a board game named ‘Physogs‘. The game pieces contain faces devoid of features. The features are contained in separately numbered strips. Much of my work grapples with gender identity and one way I am using this game is to create faces that are gender neutral. But other ambivalences will be imagined as well. In these works, I wish to subvert the game’s intent that conclusions about character can be based on facial characteristics. By placing features on these faces in unexpected combinations, I wish to undermine the notion that people can be known through physiognomy. We are far more, and much more mysterious.
What a wonderful day I had yesterday in New York City visiting some great art exhibits. The Leon Golub show is sobering and I looked intently at the cut canvases and their placement on the wall. Duct tape can only go so far and affixing unstretched canvas to walls is no easy task. His paint looks like dried cement and this reinforces the often gruesome content. At the opposite end of the color spectrum is the work of Judith Bernstein. Her paintings are day-glo satires. Both artists’ works are similar for their angry disavowals of the status quo.
Today I worked on the Hattie McDaniel portrait trying to add more pure colors.
I am taking an online course entitled Marriage and the Movies and it has me thinking about how characters that African Americans had to play in movies were almost exclusively supporting roles, both figuratively and literally as they often had to prop up white actors/actresses. Most famously Hattie McDaniel’s character performed this function for Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. I remember many in the audience hissing when they saw the slaves in a showing of the film in New York in the 1990’s.I like to think that this portrait just begun of McDaniel will hiss and more if anyone would challenge her.
At least I have this to show for my week-long bout with illness. Perhaps my desire to move as quickly as I could, but being unable to move at more than a glacial pace, is the reason for this painting’s somewhat frenzied paint application. Or it could just be my usual need to plow forward, tearing myself away from my limiting idea of what a painting must be. One thing I am happy about is that I allowed the paint to create the painting: thoughtful of course, but with healthy doses of spontaneity and serendipity. A very effective prescription.
Her previous girlfriend called her ‘La Reina’, the Queen. I call her ‘Little’. Somewhere between these two poles I am seeking a true(ish) version of Maryanne. This is Maryanne after a few painting sessions. She finally agreed to be painted because, she said, “I won’t take it personally, since you make everyone look …. ” Hmmm. I wonder what she meant.