wednesday, october 21, 2009
Here Comes The Prince Again

Just completed a small intimate painting called, “The Prince Who Emerged from a Basin of Milk”.  Its an image I’ve had in my mind for the past year. Actually that’s not quite true. I think it’s a core image for me. To be honest, the image first became manifest as far back as 2005, where this face emerged in a portrait I made from my memory of a young man that I new once in Seattle. He modeled for me many times that year ( I was in college at the University of Washington at the time) and was the basis of a whole series of drawings that I exhibited there. But the real result of all those studies of him was that I started to realize how I could reveal a remembered image with a certain quality of accuracy and attention to truthfulness by a combination process of observing my memories as if they were objects in my field of vision, observing the changes in the materials as I worked them, and remembering the topography of the subject with my hands. From that process, I later developed the process that resulted in what I think of as the ‘Navel Drawings’ – all those works on paper which sustained my attention through graduate school.


By the time I picked up the paint brushes again in 2008, learning to observe remembered visual percepts had given way to learning to observe envisioned or invented percepts. That’s why today my paintings are developed largely by invention, but enriched with intercession of models, mirrors and other visual guides.


But some pieces are just envisioned from beginning to end, like this one. My model is a combination of mythic and actual figures and personas that I have known and observed well. The content is personal – signaled by a bodily attitude that I respond to psychologically, emotionally, and physically, with a yearning for something to come. That attention to ‘emergence’ is a core theme in all of my adult work. I first saw discussed in literature when I given to read a little Heidegger in graduate school – his “Question Concerning Technology”, and always feel the pulse of it when I think of the Shroud of Turin, or catch a glimpse of the soapy limbs of a crucified-Christ.


As I was reading through a wonderful collection of Italian Folktales this year, I came across one called “The Foppish King” in which a young, handsome king becomes so vain about his looks that his bragging causes his wife, the queen, to grumble one day that there just might be some man more beautiful than him. He hears her comment and becomes enraged, challenging his wife to find a more beautiful man than he or her head will be cut off.


So she seeks help in this and eventually finds out that there is a prince, who is so beautiful that he must be looked upon through seven veils to shield people from his radiance. So the king and his wife go to see the prince, and beg his father to let them look in on him as he sleeps. As the veils are removed, his radiant beauty becomes so overwhelming that the king faints and eventually dies from shame.


The queen, having returned home, is so haunted by the vision of the sleeping prince that she is cannot rest until she sees him again. So a wise woman gives her three golden balls and instructions to place the golden balls into a basin of clean, pure milk. She asks the chambermaid to bring the basin of milk, and when she places the balls into it, the prince emerges out from the milk and is fully revealed to her gaze. Every night, she summons the prince to her chamber in this manner.


But one night, the demons whisper to the chamber maid, causing her to suspect that these meetings are evil. So the chambermaid grinds up some glass into a fine powder and mixes it into the milk before she brings it to the queen. This time, when the prince emerges, he is covered with blood from head to toe; the invisible glass shards cutting his flesh as he emerges through the tainted milk. Betrayed, the prince sees the queen believes it was she who hurt him, and renouncing his love for her, he disappears back through the basin of milk. The prince arrives back at his father’s house fatally wounded, and the whole kingdom shrouds itself in black waiting for their radiant prince to die.


I wont tell you the rest of the story. Suffice it to say that the image of ‘The Prince Who Emerged from a Basin of Milk’ is an one that bothered me in such a way when I read this story that I have spent the last year pushing it out of my mind, and have only just recently begun to name it and deliberately make work about it. This small piece is by no means the pinnacle of my efforts in handling this theme. I suspect that what has been evoked in my imagination through the story, connecting me yet again to such a rich ‘complex’ of images and meanings that I have only just begun to scratch the surface of it. But I made a conscious start in this little painting. It will be on display at the Artist House Gallery for the month of December 2009.


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