men_in_full: (opera goers)
Those of you in Seattle or thereby might want to take a look at some of Brian Murphy's works at the Winston Wachter gallery, on exhibit until October 10.

Seattle art critic Regina Hackett in her review "Art Began With Fat People" compares one of the works on exhibit, Untitled (Triple Figure), to Renaissance painter Titian's "Allegory of Prudence," and says:

Titian's subject matter alludes to consequences that follow in sequence, and yet the painting broods over a darker, less predictable world. Murphy responds to the horror of it all, which in his hands is a gravity-free insistence. As to prudence, it's his character's undoing. Following Blake, the fictional Murphy knows it's a "rich, ugly old maid courted by incapacity." Because the character he projects cannot leave it behind, he continues to stare at the audience, as if it were a mirror.

In Fat Man Floating, I took issue with Hackett's use of the word "deformity" in connection with Murphy's treatment of images of the fat man, and I have the same reaction to Hackett's invocation here of "horror." Breaking free of gravity isn't necessarily horrible. There is something breathtaking about a large, fat man light on his feet, especially while dancing.

Nor is the triple invocation of an allegorical figure necessarily depressing. We have the Christian holy trinity; the Triple Goddess of girl, woman, and crone; the triad of id, ego, and superego in Freudian psychology; the animus/anima, self, and shadow in the theories of Carl Jung. The organizing principle, whether of the universe or the self, is often expressed in threes.

Everyone's self is to a certain extent divided between the conscious mind, the "adaptive unconscious" that thinks below the conscious mind's awareness, and the desiring, "animal" mind. So it's not surprising that artists would want to play with multiple and/or divided images, especially where the figures all look similar (as opposed to Titian's "ages of man" allegory, where each face represents a different stage in the lifespan.) Deliberately showing these divisions by multiplying the human figure perhaps can lead to bringing all those aspects of the divided self back into oneness and wholeness.

Below is one of my favorite of Murphy's paintings, probably because it *isn't* divided or fractioned. Murphy is brave, I think, to paint the very large and round man from an angle which many would consider "unflattering" (IOW the opposite of how many large people like to be painted or photographed, because the shot from above makes one look smaller.) Instead of hiding from size, Murphy literally spreads flesh across the paper, and where Hackett might see cloudlike evanescence, I see a delightful and earthy weight.


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September 2013



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