click images to see enlargement
Face It, Baby #2
1992, acrylic on canvas, 50" x 42"
Between (My Ferragamo scarf)
1994, oil on canvas, 18" x 20"
On a Somewhat Less Altruistic Note...
1994-98, mixed media, 5" x 7" each; 13" x 11" each, with frame
(triptych, custom framed)
1997, oil on canvas, 3" x 4"
Egg Study #5
1998, oil on canvas, 4" x 6" oval
fading #2 (before revision)
2003-07, colored pencil, encaustic on birch panel, 12" x 12"
2003, colored pencil on ash panel, (4.75 in. x 7 in.)
At the San Francisco Art Institute, I made several surreal, symbolic, realistically rendered paintings of human infants and/or skeletons under water. These were not meant to be morbid, nor did I intend them to be disturbing (Face It, Baby).
This archetypal imagery came to me in the early 1990's, during meditation encounters with the subconscious, while I was enrolled in a course called "Art, Spirit, Psyche," at the San Francisco Art Institute. It was much like watching an old, monochromatic, World War II newsreel: while still awake, but with my eyes closed, I clearly saw a living infant (not a fetus), floating quite calmly in some sort of liquid; the child moved its limbs quite freely, so it was not amniotic fluid but a large body of water.
When I was painting my first impression from this vision, a stranger came up to watch me, as I worked in one of the S.F.A.I. studios. He stood there for some time.
"You obviously don't have kids, do you?" he finally asked me.
"No," I replied, turning to him with a smile.
His jaw clenched. "I didn't THINK so," he huffed, and stormed out of the studio. I can only imagine that the poor fellow must have thought I was callously painting a drowning baby.
Not so! Many years later, while researching Celtic stories for my current work, I found a reference to Taliesin as a "child emerging from the sea."
I have been present at a few actual births, as well as deaths. And I was certainly influenced when living in San Francisco's Mission district, where Mexico's Day of the Dead is celebrated annually on November 2, which follows All Saint's Day and All Hallow's Eve, or what is now called Hallowe'en. What surfaced in my early to mid-1990's work was the immortal triad of human existence: time, love, and death. This resulted in paintings which echo traditional Mexican Vanitas (Between (My Feragamo scarf ) and Cupid, Being Stupid). An abstract image, a portrait, or a still life--all can be permeated with potential and loss; life does not exist without death.
Around late 1996, I began a mixed-media triptych, using photographs I took of my plastic skeleton model in Lake Tahoe's snow (On A Somewhat Less Altruistic Note...) This and the Cupid paintings were originally inspired by an earlier brush I'd had with Eros. For the record, allow me to clarify: the son of Venus and Mars is not really cute, is NOT a cherub, and is definitely NOT AN ANGEL! I suspect the Victorian era did him a disservice, although perhaps it was not undeserved (see Cupids). If you are still curious, I highly recommended reading Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis.
gallery main - home©Copyright 1992-2018 Deborah Howard-Page. All rights reserved.