Friday, January 20, 2012

Coyote with Yellow Arm 1990 & Man with Wolf's Arm 2011




In looking for an image to write about, I came across Coyote with Yellow Arm, done in 1990.  As I looked at it, and thought about what I could say, I realized I had recently done another image that was very similar, called Man with Wolf's Arm. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two to see what had changed and what had stayed the same.

Coyote was done by using a black and white photograph as the foundation for the painting, and then applying oil paint over it, obscuring most of the image.  In this case, I know I used the photograph of a nude woman, but I can't remember now who it was.  The head and legs I painted as being animal, but the torso and one arm I left photographic, or "real".  The yellow arm is painted, but it's not clear if it's human or animal.  I painted it to glow, I'm not sure why, just that it was essential to the painting.

Man with Wolf's Arm was from a photo I took this spring in New York City at MOMA using my iPhone, which I had just gotten a few months earlier.  The man was a stranger, coming up the escalator on the top floor, and that's all I know about him.  The wolf's arm is not that of a wolf at all, but that of a dead coyote, a photo taken by my daughter, Teal. She left the image file on my computer and I pirated it without any shame.  Both the man and the coyote's arm are printed on clear ink-jet transparencies so that the paint underneath comes through the photographic images, giving them a strange and beautiful kind of clarity. 

Even though my process and the technology involved is completely different than what I did over twenty years ago, I'm still fascinated by how similar the two images are:  both are talking about beings that are part animal, part human; both emphasize the arms as being an important part of the story being told; and both are clearly speaking to that part of the world that we seem to be in danger of losing touch with--a world where man and animal exist together as equal partners.

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