A few months ago, I came across in a craft store a wooden box with an oval opening in the top. The box was designed to fit over a Kleenex box, but I was struck immediately by its resemblance to a diorama peep-show theater. It was made of soft, smooth wood with just enough tooth, with a subtle but visible grain to the wood, which proved an ideal surface for crisp but nuanced rendering in pencil. I did the entire image in pencil first, and then began staining it with thin, transparent washes of acrylic… a scary step, as the wood was super-absorbent, and mostly unforgiving of careless brushwork, instantly absorbing and fixing each stoke.[
From the beginning I had envisioned a peep-show scene inside the box, to be viewed through the oval proscenium, but had no idea what that scene might be. The frolicking clowns on the outside came pretty easily, insinuating themselves into my awareness as I worked around the surfaces of the box. As I drew them, the phrase “Our story, so far” came to me, from a childhood memory of Saturday matinees at the local movie theater, which were always preceded by a cartoon and an episode of a serial from the 1940s, usually either Batman or Flash Gordon. Every episode began with the words “Our Story So Far…” followed by a montage of images from previous episodes.
At this point, I was reminded of a pair of shadow puppets I’d designed for a collaborative video made with my friend Karen Jenson, based upon a long series of discussions about philosophy and religion and contemplation of the Void. With ink, Glass, and plexiglass, the inner image was created based on those puppets, and on that ongoing discussion.
To enhance the theatrical feel of the piece, I added some 22 kt gold leaf to the border of the oval proscenium.
As with all of my images, this image and its meanings arise from my own experiences, and have very specifically personal meanings for me. The point of art, however, is to communicate meaning to an audience larger than one’s self. The artist’s own meanings are, of course, intrinsic to the work, but it’s the possibility of finding resonance with others’ meanings and perceptions that drives art. My hope is always that these images, when viewed, will strike ripples of resonant experience in the viewer.
Kurt Vonnegut said that a painting is only one half of a conversation. I agree. My intended meanings are often enigmatic and guardedly stated, but are always quite specific. Art occurs in the conversation, in the interface between what I intend and what you infer, and in the continuing dialogue that ensues.
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