Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A kind of salvation

Life Savers
20 x 40, acrylic

So it would be an understatement to say that "it's been a while" since it has in fact been over a month since my last update!  The main reason is that anything I've worked on in the last month has been a commission/gift and so I had to wait until after the gift had been given to make this post.  Needless to say I was overjoyed by being asked to create two works over the holidays (and will be posting the second one shortly).  The work I have posted here, which I have informally named "Life Savers", was a request to which the only instruction was to inspire myself from a single picture.  From there I had carte blanche to create anything of my liking.  I was (obviously) thrilled by this and am ecstatic that the painting turned out exactly as I had imagined it. 

It may be my love of somewhat "straight-forward" symbolism found in Baroque art that pushes me to include objects, colors, and animals that evoke a specific meaning (in this case, specific to the particular owner of the painting).  In order to incorporate meaningful items into the painting, I felt it was important to look not to the standard list of symbols (e.g. rose = love) but to seek out elements that would resonate with Elaina, namely, the person for whom the painting was created (the one on the right).  The person on the left is Cara, who commissioned the painting and provided me with a bit of information, namely Elaina's favorite colour (dark blue) and animal (the hummingbird).  

It may seem somewhat "simple" to merely add these elements into the painting, but the reality is that animals and colours with which we relate on a deeply personal level are in fact part of our identity and should not be taken for granted.  Colors can impact our mood in a number of ways and so I wanted to make use of them in a way that evoked joy, serenity, and fantasy, as well as act as a commentary on our pre-conceived notions of color as it relates to femininity and masculinity.  Namely, here the two women are depicted with blues (typically associated with "boys") and yet are swimming/are surrounded by a sea of pinks (a color typically associated with "girls").  This is meant to represent the way both coming to understand themselves in regards to, and within a, world where socially constructed notions of masculinity and femininity are so clearly defined.  Yet note that they are enjoying themselves; having moved beyond the initial struggle of coming to terms with the fact that they do not associate themselves with these established notions of gender and can now simply float along securely, happily, and most importantly together.  

Here the notion of "life savers" comes into play.  Early on, as I was conceiving of the painting in my head, the thought of adding giant Lifesavers candy, as well as an actual life saver, kept coming up until I couldn't avoid it anymore and simply had to go through with it.  The idea of life savers kept popping into my head mainly because of my knowledge of the strength and original essence of the relationship between Cara and Elaina.  I was aware that both had found something in each other that they had never been able to find in someone before, and which allowed them to connect, grow, and learn about themselves in a new and unique way.  

Ultimately, I decided to incorporate these colorful candies with "pop qualities" in order to really emphasize the notion that one can only survive modern existence in the company of loved ones.  Whether it is a romantic relationship, or simply the love of a friend, a sibling, etc. it is those who love us (and whom we can love back) who allow us to connect deeply with one another, and ultimately with ourselves: they are our life savers they allow us to keep moving forward and to look towards the future with hope and excitement.  The hope and excitement of anticipating sharing intimate moments that are transformed into "memories": our contemplation of the past and consequently of the sum total of our presence on Earth.

A few more symbolic aspects of the work are: the Hummingbirds, the falling feather, and the color of the sky.  Namely, the Hummingbird is Elaina's spirit animal, and so is of great importance in terms of her Metis cultural background.  In the same respect, the feather (although it is a Hummingbird's and not and Eagle's) is meant to represent both the mythological and social significance of the symbol of the feather to the Aboriginal nations.  Note that the hummingbirds are of different colors, and that all are flying harmoniously and unafraid of the humans near them.  This, along with the scenic mountains and trees in the background, is meant to evoke a sense of harmony with nature and the beauty of its natural order.  

The painting comes together as a great medley of colors; the way the sky goes from dark blue and purple space all the way to an orange sunset, which moves into a pink lake is meant to mirror the color scheme of a rainbow.  Also note that the Lifesavers are painted in accordance with the dominant color of the area I have placed them.  The way this progression of color is bright and natural, where one color leads into the next, makes way for the other and where each catches the eye equally, creates a sense of warmth and fantasy, daydream and creativity, as well as being reminiscent of the rainbow - an important symbol of the GLBTQ community.   

Phew!  I think I have given an adequate overview of my ideas and intentions in regards to this painting...  And while I seek to de-mystify my art (because art doesn't necessarily have to be obscure to be effective), I do believe that the viewer's interpretation (as it relates to his or her own life experience) is just as important as any specific meaning I may have intended to share through my work.  And so, I suppose you could have skipped everything else and jumped to the part where I tell you "you don't really need to know what I was thinking when I put this there, and that here", but hey, it doesn't hurt, right?

So that is all for now!  Stay tuned for commission # 2: a family portrait of Paul Galipeau's family and their dog in this style!

Until next time..