Sunday, January 22, 2012
SOMETHING ABOUT A FAMILY-The Story of a Painting
I’m wrestling with a painting that says something about a family–mom, dad, daughter depicted as hearts curled up in seedpods that rise from the New Jersey wetlands. It took three years of iterations, influences and changes to get to this point. The image at the top of the blog is close to the final.
My artist friend Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth, http://coffeewithhallelujah.blogspot.com/ visited me in my studio on Friday, and suggested I think of the evolving piece as chapters in a novel, with twists and turns of plot, a title, and synopsis on the back cover. The idea of painting as a book gives me some distance, which helps me pull out meaning from this conundrum of a painting. Here’s one possible story...
Title: Something About A Family by Cecelia Kane
Back Cover Synopsis: Something About A Family is a generational story that begins when the grown daughter, Little Cece, arranges three green pears on an enameled metal plate in 2008. She recognizes a similarity with an idyllic family photo of herself, her mother and father from Easter Sunday,1950 in Shrewsbury Vermont. Kane leads us on a journey through the eyes of Cece back to her roots near the industrial wetlands of urban New Jersey, reconstructing something about a family that cacooned itself against a tough gang-oriented cityscape. The family built a boat shaped like a plate, to navigate the canals and alleyways of an inhospitable city. Through birth, death and resurrection Cece, and the vibrant memories of her dead parents, are born again as harlequin hearts of love nestled in seedpods that rise above the swirling tides and dark nights of Cece's ordinary life–saved in the nick of time from sliding off the edge of the painting.
Chapter 1. 2008 Inspiration from a Plate of Pears (photo-recreation)
Chapter 2. 2008 Visual Connection With An Old Photo
Chapter 3. 2008 Hearts in the City, a mixed media drawing on paper created during a residency at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap Georgia, December 2008, 11” x 17”
Chapter 4. 2009 Hearts in the Lonely City, a painting based on the drawing.
It’s a colorful but inanimate rendition of Cece and her family afloat on that enamel plate in a flooded city in New Jersey. Some sort of egg-y goo threatens their ability to navigate this stiff, lifeless town. The father doesn’t match Cece’s memory of her dad who was kind, though mostly absent. Their harlequin garb is too perfect, too strange, too arbitrary. Acrylic on canvas, 40" x 32"
Chapter 5. 2009 Hearts at Home in Chaos, The painting now pulls the three family members together as a huddled mass of color into it’s own protected nest within the coiled streets of the city. Father’s eyes are emotionless sentinels. The plate-boat has morphed into a brick pathway and a new heart slides into the scene. Who is this? The buildings are engulfed in flames and flood. The buildings are more transparent in this version, and writhing in motion. This is industrial New Jersey suffering the effects of overcrowding, dirt and eco-devastation.
Chapter 6. 2009 Hate and Intervention, Cece cannot abide this painting. It does not speak the full truth of her family and early life. On another artist retreat to the Hambidge Center in the north Georgia mountains, Cece has a couple of glasses of wine at dinner, returns at night to her studio retreat, and paints big white ovals in circular brush strokes around the four heart forms. (No photo was taken of this phase...This picture is a Photoshop recreation.)
Chapter 7. 2010 More Interventions, Not knowing where to turn, Cece tries to find her family. She creates a large pond for the four hearts to float in. (This is also a rough recreation). The white circles become more egg-like.
Chapter 8. 2011 Dead Hearts Cece obliterates the windows, and changes the transparent buildings into planar boxes hugging the periphery of the family’s lagoon. The fire has mostly subsided, but flood waters encircle the city and form dark canals between the buildings. The night sky merges with the water. Cece makes the images of the family more heart-like, but now the four creatures are lifeless and colorless, cold and isolated, cacooned in their separate eggs, like plucked, naked chicken bodies-still not her family.
How will Cece get out of this mess?
Chapter 9. 2012 The Black Box In despair, Cece seriously contemplates painting the entire canvas a dense field of black.
Chapter 10. 2012 Seedpods Rise out of the Muck. Cece saves the day by having faith in her family. She boldly removes the top heart creature, returning the family to three.
She restores their harlequin costumes, but simpler now, shaded and nestled in three green flower-like pods that rise out of the urban muck, rooted and resurrected on the brink of sliding off the edge of the painting. Muted windows return to the faces of the boxes and new ghostlike buildings inhabit the swale of wetland pond, swaying with the currents like high rise marsh reeds.
Chapter 11. 2012 The End The story concludes in a triple rebirth and a rising, with just a hint that this may not be the end.