Monday, September 8, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream (The Bed Series)

"To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."
~William Shakespeare

I am fascinated by absence. I am intrigued by action that happens when we are looking away, by the remnants of activity. Perhaps it is periodic moods of melancholia and a tendency to ruminate that create this pull in me to paint what is not there.

I had a discussion with a friend recently about this desire to paint portraits of people, but portraits where the person has just left, just stepped out, where they have just been. It is the equivalent of dust in the air by a lifted tome, a curtain blowing from someone quickly passing through a room, or a coffee mug still warm from the tea it held. Peoples' possessions, whether strictly utilitarian or cherished, have a connection with their owner. Painting seemingly mundane objects is something I love to do...the challenge of turning something commonplace into something infused with a narrative is a great joy to attempt.

So it goes with beds. I paint them often. They can be heavy with metaphor or simply a place to lay our heads. They are places where we are born and where we die. They really are just objects, but they really are so much more than that as well. They are paradoxes. The meaning we assign to them is our own and no one elses. Here I have painted one bed, twice. The first painting, "Bed(Before)", oil on canvas, 48"x36",is calm and inviting. The title implies that there is something about to happen. What that is is completely up to the imagination of the viewer. As any good movie director knows, it is the monster in the closet that is far more terrifying than the one we see onscreen. What our mind creates is always scarier than what manifests in the film. I try to use this technique in my work as well. The viewer's imagination is boundless, certainly it can fly beyond what I lay down with paint. When you juxtapose the two paintings together, clearly something has happened in the interim between "Bed(Before)" and "Bed(After)". What that something is is left to the viewer.

"Bed(After)", oil on canvas, 48"x36" was a much more challenging painting to do. The folds, as they always do, tend to drive me crazy and yet I paint them all the time. I love the challenge of seeing if I can render the creases effectively. When I planned these two paintings I had no idea what might have happened between the two pieces. The point is we will never know. We can only surmise and fill in the blanks with something personally relevant to us. These two paintings are a portrait and also a still life of sorts. They are a portrait of activity, of a person in absentia, of the space left by the person. We spend something like 30 percent of our lives sleeping. Beds are where we have some very strong connections, good and bad, in sickness and in health. They have an intimacy attached to them. They are where we reflect, dream and plan. They are very personal places, places where we can be vulnerable and where we can be secure. Each of us must visit them every day at some point. What happens in between is up to us.

"What is money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night  and in between does what he wants to do.” ~Bob Dylan

1 comment:

Peggi Habets said...

Great idea for a series. An unmade bed is so full interpretation and innuendo. I can't wait to see how this series progresses. I love the idea of a portrait after the subject has left.