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"Cold Pastoral"
37 3/4" x 10 3/4" (including frame)
Center panel: 12" x 9", Oil on Linen; Side panels: 10" x 8", Ink and Gesso on Paper.
2012

Like previous works in this series, I have a full-color painting winged by black-and-white works on paper. That contrast is obvious, but it is not the only way I've tried to distinguish the center image from the wings, and vice versa. I've attempted to strengthen that contrast through the architecture of the frame. The wing-images are behind glass and set back from the surface of the frame with quarter-round moulding. These are understated yet unmistakenly ornamental elements that are meant to speak "frame" to the viewer, thus identifying the images held as "art".

The central painting is literally closer to the viewer, flush with the surface of the frame, floating in a space, but not held there. While the physical properties of the black-and-white drawings are masked, the opposite is true for the painting, where object-ness is emphasized. There's no glass to obscure the surface texture, the edges of the canvas are exposed. All this is meant to convey a point: the center presents a truer, fuller experience, from which the wings are a step removed.

That point is expressed not only in the instillation, but in the subject matters as well. The compositions on the wings are overtly staged for dramatic effect. Note the last, valiant leaf clinging to the branch of the tree, bent by the winter wind, or the long shadows cast across undisturbed snow by a sun low in the sky, through a stand of trees. These are images designed to deliberately evoke emotional responses, and they make no bones about it. The center is different. On any given winter's day, close your eyes, turn towards the sun and open them. You're likely to encounter a view similar to the one set down here. High streaks of clouds, veiling the sun, over a horizon of bare tree tops. Where's the purpose to this image? It isn't in the painting itself, but in it's juxtoposition with the wing-images.

The title, "Cold Pastoral", could of course be a description of the work: winter landscape. It is, in fact, a quote from John Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn". I'll not include the entire poem here as this description is already running long, but cold pastoral is how the poet, in the climactic final stanza, addresses the ancient work of art:

...a friend to man, to whom thou say'st
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know

That line of verse expresses very succinctly what it is I mean to say with this painting. The world as it appears and is experienced is infinitely more varied and interesting than anything my imagination is capable of producing on its own, and while my work is a reflection of my own inner-life, it can only be appreciated by others if it speaks to a common truth.