December 1, 2011 // Ghosts as Cocoons Artist Statement (2011) Coffeehouse NW

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

-From Sunday Afternoon, Wallace Stevens

These paintings came from the desire to move my previous series, The Stare's Nest, in a more minimal direction. As I began drawing compositions, I was haunted by the ghosts of figures that I erased and moved to new locations on the canvas. These ghosts became essential both to the composition and to the way I began to think about the series. I wanted to paint the transformation of one living thing becoming another: a natural alchemy.

Aesthetically and technically, my paintings have been influenced by 17th century Dutch painting. The canvases take substantial priming and preparation, followed by a period of drawing and revision before any painting occurs. I use glazing to create more atmospheric darks and luminous lights.

Aesthetically, I am fascinated by the way Dutch still life painters depict decay. Jan Davidsz de Heem's Vase with flowers, c.1670 (Mauritshuis collection, Den Haag) was a primary inspiration. It beautifully represents a pantheon of imperfections, rot, insects and blemishes that the viewer perceives after the first impression of one of the most vividly and skillfully painted still lifes extant. The flowers are captured across all moments in their lifespan--bud, bloom and decay--and the arrangement contains flowers from incompatible seasons, extracted from time in a way that is both splendid and impossible. The imperfections and blemishes on the fruit are embraced. They expand the scope of time and reality in the painting--the preciousness of the moment of fully ripe fruit and blooming flowers.
Jan Davidsz. de Heem 008

In Ghosts as Cocoons, many of the birds are dead and some are doubled, captured in two possible moments. I am not certain whether there are many moths surrounding the birds, or whether I have painted one moth and found a pattern in its constant movement. In my previous work I used moths only as a compositional element whereas in this series they have become structurally and conceptually integral to the paintings. The patterns of moths that surround the birds are modeled after the stamped golden nimbuses that encircle the heads of saints in medieval art, and they are transferred onto the canvas in a manner that resembles stamping. I envision them as a natural counterpart to a nimbus, made not of gold but of living, moving insects.

I rely heavily on literature and poetry for inspiration, and for the last several years my imagery has been influenced by Yeats, Stevens, and Keats, all of whom make extensive use of birds. The poems from which I drew my titles, My Descendants, Ghosts as Cocoons, and To Autumn, all deal with the same issues of fruitfulness and decay that I have been exploring. I also think of these painting as seasonal, Ghosts as Cocoons being a spring painting, Flourish and Decline summer, The Half-Reaped Furrow fall, and Fearful Symmetry a winter painting.

Artist Statement Maine-Salk.d2.pdf

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This page contains a single entry by Molly published on December 1, 2011 4:19 PM.

The Stare's Nest (2009) Series II Artist Statement, Lille was the previous entry in this blog.

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