Saturday, May 19, 2018

Woman Burning a Photo

Woman Burning a Photo
12 1/2" x 10", oil on linen, 2018

I've long held the belief that the viewer should be free to make their own interpretation about the meaning of the narratives in my work. Not wanting to influence the viewer's thinking, I rarely say much about what a painting may mean to me; my titles are usually minimal for the same reason. That said, I enjoy hearing people's interpretations, and the ideas about the same painting can sometimes be wildly different.

In my ongoing solo exhibition in Boston, Adam Adelson, Director of Adelson Galleries Boston, wrote short wall texts for each painting exhibited. Here's what he wrote about this painting:
"An image of a man begins to ignite in the hands of a woman who stands over a table – set with a candle and dish with water.  The ritual of burning this image appears premeditated, as she’s ready to extinguish the flame as soon as it destroys the image.  She and her dog watch the flame start to engulf an image of the older, unassuming gentleman.  We are not sure what her relationship is to this man, but it’s apparent that he had harmed her in some way.  Clearly, the man is not as innocent as he seems in the photograph.  We have all experienced ending an unhealthy relationship, and each person has their own process of letting go so that they can move on with their life.  The woman’s private ceremony unburdens her without harming anyone." 
Other interpretations are also welcome.

This composition took four drawings to fully develop:

Woman Burning a Photo, drawing #1
10" x 11", pencil on paper, 2018

Initially, the woman was using a match to burn the photo. A painting of a dog - perhaps looking more like an anteater than a dog - was behind her on the wall.

In the next drawing, the dog went from an image on the wall to becoming the woman's companion by her side, the hand-held match became a candle, and a bowl of water was included to eventually extinguish the fire. I also added the androgynous figure, a witness.

Woman Burning a Photo, drawing #2
9" x 9", pencil on paper, 2018

The second person was removed in the third drawing; he/she seemed to dilute the narrative and I felt the composition was stronger with just the single figure. The faithful dog remained.

Woman Burning a Photo, drawing #3
10" x 8", pencil on graph paper, 2018

The final drawing was an enlargement of #3:

Woman Burning a Photo, drawing #4
12 1/2" x 10", pencil on graph paper with green oxide pastel tone on reverse, 2018


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  1. Ah, Andrew, methinks you have said too much. You give yourself away: "The faithful dog remained." The dog was faithful. The man in the photograph was not.
    Bryan Mauldin

  2. I enjoyed the detailed explanation of how
    the sketch evolved over time.

    The image is terrifically provocative.

    - JL



"There is more power in telling little than in telling all."
- Mark Rothko

“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meanings are unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.”
- Magritte

"Now, the idea is to get everything right -- it's not just color or form or space or line -- it's everything all at once."
- Richard Diebenkorn

“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious,
the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.”
- Amedeo Modigliani