Thursday, October 16, 2008


click image to enlarge
Certain of my paintings are inspired by the Sienese Renaissance John the Baptist paintings at the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. This fifteenth century painting cycle by Giovanni Di Paolo is composed of eccentric, complex, highly patterned spaces, through which an episodic narrative runs, relating the iconography of John’s story. In the first panel, the youthful figure of John enters on lower left, and then reappears at upper right of the same painting (in a so-called continuous narrative) turning away to disappear into the wilderness. (This image is also seen in Giovanni’s horizontal version of this painting at the National Gallery in London, shown above. In that case, two side panels flank the image, each depicting a blossoming flower on a long stem, turned to face away from the viewer. This detail of the London version is in fact the original seed of my interest in this string of metaphors in Giovanni Di Paolo's painting.) In the Chicago panel depicting St. John in prison (ninth panel of the original set of twelve, third of the partial sequence present in Chicago), the older, haggard-looking John appears in an inset-like frame-within-a-frame; he appears looking out through the bars of a cell where he is captive. The spatial and physical aspect of this situation is emphasized. His image tends toward consonance with the picture plane, placing the highly articulated bars slightly in front, screening (dramatizing, frustrating) our view of him. In Chicago’s fifth panel, we are returned to the same spatial setting, a view of John’s jail from the outside, but now the lower bars have been tangibly pulled aside (the mechanism is shown), John’s body has been pulled forward through the window (into our space?), and he has been beheaded (silenced).

1 comment:

Michele said...

To add a quote . . .

"And while the paper made way, with a slight crackling sound, for the path of the needle, I would now and then surrender to the temptation to dote on the knot-work on the underside, which, with every stitch that brought me closer to the goal on the front, became more tangled."
--Walter Benjamin, "The Sewing Box"