Friday, September 20, 2013

BLOG POST #7: CREATING LIFE: The PYGMALION Complex

Curley's Diner Triptych 5'6x10'
As I mentioned previously, I love to work BIG, not wall-sized, but six feet by eight feet feels right to me. I enjoy the physicality of large, sweeping gestures with the brush or charcoal; it’s almost like dancing in front of the canvas. No wonder orchestra conductors and sculptors live so long. There’s something incredibly healthy about what they do; their whole bodies are caught up in musical movement. As for me, after an hour or so of painting, I am exhausted but exhilarated, at one with the canvas and the brush in my hand.

My second reason (it may even be my first) for working on a life-sized scale is my need for companionship. Don’t laugh. I’m an “only child” and I always wanted siblings. My late husband, a Clinical Psychologist, used to walk into my studio, note the cast of characters on the wall, shake his head and say: “Only an only child would do this!” When people ask me where I get my ideas, I say “Curley’s Diner” or “Loehmann’s Dressing Room” (a communal space for trying on clothes). I fall madly in love with my creations; They become my friends. There’s an apocryphal story about the Italian Renaissance sculptor, Donatello, screaming at one of his more realistic creations: “Speak! Damn you! Speak!” 

One of the best paintings I ever did is a giant triptych on canvas called “Curley’s Diner.” It wasn’t pre-planned, no sketches, not an idea in my head when I began. The center panel depicts a lecherous-looking man trying to seduce Maria, the na├»vely trusting owner of the diner. She is looking up towards heaven, seemingly unaware of his predatory intentions. You can imagine my shock one day when he actually showed up in the restaurant, flirting with Maria and all the waitresses. His name – get this – was Valentino (the truth!) and he was an Albanian house painter who, according to Maria, loved women and spent all his money on whores. The real-life Valentino (not the one in my painting) was dark and handsome in a sleazy way, and had a large pair of women’s lips tattooed on his neck. Was he a lusty Golem I created to satisfy the love-hungry females of the world? What had I done?


I refer in the title of this post to Pygmalion, the legendary Greek sculptor who created his perfect woman, Galatea, and then proceeded to give her life.  If I could do that, I’d create a crowd.

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