Posts tagged longwrite
Posts tagged longwrite
Unitarian minister Peter Tufts Richardson, in his book Four Spiritualities, contends that it is important to pay attention to the works of religious, spiritual, and philosophical teachers in traditions that are different from our native one (See Part I and Part II).
But how can we identify which teachers might be helpful to us? Richardson believes that our inherent personality type (see links at the bottom of the article) helps to determine which teachings are attractive, meaningful, and useful to us.
"In every sizeable community, one finds atheists who think there is not God, polytheists who acknowledge many gods, monotheists who believe there is a single God, and mystics who say there is only God." (Huston Smith)
The Unitarian minister we met in Part I, Peter Tufts Richardson, feels that it’s important to pay attention to the works of religious, spiritual, and philosophical teachers in traditions other than own. Among other things, this may enlarge our world view and make us more tolerant of differing faiths. But how can we identify which teachers in other faiths might be helpful to us?
Richardson believes that our inherent personality type (see links at bottom) helps to determine which parts of any faith or religion are attractive, meaningful, and/or helpful to us. (For more information, click here to read Part I).
"On the right hand stand the lovers, on the left are those who seek. And we will dance in conversation until our tongues can no longer speak." (Bruce Roper)
Although I was born into a Catholic family, I never “got” Catholicism. The Catholic Mass is still surreal to me, with its mumbled incantations and dolorous organ music. As a child, I never understood why I couldn’t participate. Later, the budding scientist in me wondered whether the laws of physics were really different when Jesus was alive (a seeming prerequisite for miracles).
Poor Mother Theresa. By rights she should be a saint by now, but sainthood requires the candidate to have performed two “miracles” (acts defying “the laws of nature”) that can be verified by The Catholic Church. The Church has confirmed only one such miracle for Mother Theresa, so she’s officially entered heaven but is not yet a saint.
This state of affairs inspired me to start my own sainthood program. My credibility must be at least as good as that of the Catholic Church. I’m not attracted to children, I support the distribution of condoms to prevent AIDS, and I think women are just as likely as men to be able to manage a congregation and talk to God.
This article marks the official beginning my sainthood program. Of course, like the Catholic Church, I’m open to objections to my nominees. Please feel free to play devil’s advocate.
For me, a saint is someone who discards self-preservation instincts and gives their resources freely and lovingly to others, often to the point of injuring themselves. My new nominee for sainthood is someone you’ve probably never heard of— the late writer and professor Deborah Digges.
As a child, Azzam Alwash loved to visit Iraq’s Southern Marshes with his father, a hydraulic engineer under Saddam Hussein. This huge, diverse ecosystem, larger than the Florida Everglades, is believed by Biblical and Qu’ran scholars to be the site of The Garden of Eden. Alwash describes the marshes of his childhood as “a peaceful, peaceful place.”
As a young man, Alwash fled Saddam’s regime to study in America. He remained in the U.S. for nearly a quarter century, becoming a hydraulic engineer like his father. He applied for citizenship, married an American and had two daughters.
Although he was away from his native Iraq for almost 25 years, Alwash was haunted by his childhood memories of the marshes. He swore that one day he would show his wife and his daughters the Garden of Eden he had known.
We at The Surreal Circus are excited by the high quality of the entries to our surreal flash fiction contest. Thank you to all participants!
As one judge said: "I was impressed by the range of the stories, from parodic homage to the old style Surrealist tale to Kafkean parable to … near-future fiction to retelling of creation myth."
Judging this contest was both a treat and a learning experience. Reading surreal fiction should make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a parallel universe— a bit disoriented, a bit ”out of this world.” And a number of the entries did just that.
After much debate, here are our prizewinners: two wildly creative yet solidly-constructed parallel universes, as well as five runners-up that were strong contenders. We hope you enjoy these stories as much as we did!
Back in 2006 when I first wrote about her work, portrait artist Patrisha McLean was tired of her Flower Girls series, ready to abandon the project for a new one. At the time, I didn’t think her portraits could get any better, and she may have agreed. But she persevered with the series, proving us both wrong.
Instead, McLean explored new territory, and the results are breathtaking. Like the masterful artist she is, McLean has plumbed the depths of the Flower Girls concept, and in doing so explored the deepest parts of our collective psyche.
Hers is a remarkable photographic journey that begins in photo realism (the language of journalism) and ends in Symbolism, the language of dreams. Symbolist painters, such as Gustave Moreau, Gustav Klimt, Odilon Redon, and Edvard Munch used mythological and dream imagery. Often, like McLean, they created a timeless atmosphere of utter stillness and silence.
Though she began her career as a journalist, McLean’s editorial photography revolves around The Maiden’s Voyage, the mythical coming-of-age of young women. McLean’s portraits ask "Will the Flower Girl survive her passage to adulthood, with its impending ‘de-flowering?’” Parents have worried about this since the dawn of mankind, so The Maiden’s Voyage is a common story.
McLean’s 2008 portrait Lydia with Antique Mirror (above) sums up The Maiden’s Voyage (or perhaps The Heroine’s Journey) in one lovely stroke. Lydia explores an unknown forest, surrounded by vegetation that seems about to consume her. But unlike Clara with Rhododendrons (2006), Lydia doesn’t look to the viewer for help. Reaching the center of the forest, Lydia has stumbled upon herself. She’s traversed her own labyrinth, a one-way path to the center of her psyche.
In historical myths, a maiden was often seduced by a god in disguise (i.e. Leda and the Swan) at her coming-of-age. In modern versions, the seduction is watered-down, and the maiden simply loses consciousness at her transition, as in Sleeping Beauty or The Wizard of Oz. The growing importance of the unconscious dream-state in McLean’s work becomes clear when it’s viewed in serial fashion:
Above (Nora with Old Roses, 2006), an alert young girl is compared to roses. The message is simple. Nora is a rose. This is realism.
In Riley With Old Roses, Dreaming (2006), McLean tentatively approaches Symbolism. She depicts Riley’s dream, but we
aren’t in the dream. We must guess at the dream’s contents, represented by the multi-toned roses swirling around Riley’s head.
In Becca with Summer Flowers (2008), McLean has taken the plunge. She’s immersed in her subject’s dream, and so are we. Becca has taken control, raising her arms and summoning flying flowers to do her bidding, as one might summon the elements. This is Symbolism. McLean’s portrait seems to take place in aboriginal dream time, an atmosphere of timelessness, utter stillness and silence.
Although McLean’s work retains elements of her photo-journalism (who’d expect the gaunt Flower Girl above, with her world-weary stare and her choker of roses?), she now works largely in the realm of the Symbolic.
Never shy about exploring the dark side, McLean has created a stunning dualistic illustration of the Sleeping Beauty myth. A daytime Sleeping Beauty is paired with her haunting doppelganger, a vampirish nocturnal beauty. Together, these portraits make me wonder whether Sleeping Beauty will survive her journey to adulthood, awakening in the light as a woman. Or will she remain as adults would have her, forever a little girl, in stasis and in the dark?
McLean’s most surprising new portrait may be Harper with Old Roses (2008). There’s something unexpected in this image. With her sensuous face, claw-like nails, and explosion of roses, this is a rapturous Flower Girl who’s come of age, innocent no longer.
I think Eliza with Peonies and Pearls best sums up McLean’s new work. The Flower Girls are at the end of their dangerous journey, no longer lost in a forbidding forest. Some look directly and knowingly at the viewer.
While the leash of the world still tugs at them (every girl wears a choker or necklace) the young women are now masters of their universe. Individuation is complete. The Flower Girls have found themselves, become whole, and blossomed.
Patrisha McLean’s daughter entered college in 2008, and I think her maternal relief, as well as her pride in a job well done, are evident in the Flower Girls series. There’s a touch of Botticelli’s Venus in the latest Flower Girl images, a sense of joy in presenting the world with a lovely, newly-formed young woman. By chronicling The Maiden’s Voyage as her daughter grew, McLean has given voice to parents everywhere.
All photographs copyright 2011 by Patrisha McLean, reproduced with her permission. Image resolution has been lowered for online publication. To contact McLean or see more of her work, click here: PatrishaMcLean.com
Article copyright 2013 by Ann Marcaida.
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I’ve long dreamed of a band that combines the beauty of Celtic music with the raw energy of rock and punk. It took years to find one, but I have. Britain’s Oysterband is a Celtic-folk-punk-rock band with a body of work that spans 33 years and is deep, universal, and frequently awe-inspiring.
Oysterband (named in honor of Whitstable, England, famous for its oysters) was conceived in 1978 as a traditional Celtic dance band. I caught up with the band nearly 30 years later. By the time I found the Oysters, they had gone from traditional music enthusiasts to punk bad boys to “the grandfathers of British folk.”
This five-member band is so adaptable that new musicians (and instruments) are frequently added to their lineup. Oysterband tours with and promotes the music of lesser-known bands such as the US’s Handsome Family. They also run one of Britain’s premiere annual folk festivals, The Big Sessions.
Below the Oysters ad-lib their 1993 classic When I’m Up I Can’t get Down (lyrics here) in a favorite pub. This song gives a voyeuristic peek into the raw exuberance of sex, drugs, and violence in London’s 1980s punk scene:
This is a story about suicide, but it’s not a sad story. It’s the tale of how a remarkable woman named Annie Chase, diagnosed with a terminal illness, determined to live her final days in mindfulness and die a considerate death, both for herself and those around her. Says Jerry Dincin:
"Though Annie was an atheist, her finding a positive beauty in the preparation for her death and genuine peace as she neared the end provides meaning and hope for all of us, believers and non-believers alike."
Sleeping is an adventure. I never know what will play next at the dream cinema inside my head. Sometimes I have fairytale dreams, in which I’m transported to a magical place or time, but these are rare.
More often I have nightmares— the kind of dreams that make me question my sanity. You know what I’m talking about. I’m lost in my own house, which has mysteriously rearranged its rooms. I’m at the zoo, and I accidentally release the elephants. I imagine that my nose-hair is growing uncontrollably, only to wake and find my cat’s tail in my face. And so forth.
I also have those universal, euphoric flying dreams. Don’t we all crave release from our earthbound body?
My love of dreams probably explains my love of surreal movies. Most people like movies with strong characters and an engrossing plot, but I can’t be bothered with such trivia. What I crave is to be immersed in a movie, to be transported elsewhere. Watching a surreal movie is, for me, sharing in the lucid (fabricated) dream of the director.
Native Australians believe that the dream world (dreamtime) is “realer” than reality. They may be right.
In the real world, we are realistic. We solve practical, everyday problems using our conscious, logical minds. But when we dream, our unconscious minds take over.
In the dream world, we are surrealistic. The linear flow of time breaks down, and images and relationships become illogical, often bizarre. Think about what happens to your thoughts in the few minutes before you fall asleep. Your mind is switching over from conscious to subconscious imagery.
While our conscious minds deal with waking reality, our unconscious minds give vent to our more instinctive thoughts and feelings.*
Good artists in all media know how to access their unconscious mind. It’s the wellspring of human creativity, and its language is universally understood. This is why I agree with aboriginal Australians that dreamtime is at least as real as waking reality.
SURREALISM AS A CULTURAL MOVEMENT
The language of the dream world is also the language of art and myth. Although surreal art is as old as mankind, Surrealism as a cultural movement is much newer, dating back to the 1920s.
The founding Surrealist artists and writers, such as Salvador Dali and Andre Breton, regarded their work as a philosophical movement, establishing new standards for art and literature. Surreal artists desire, above all, a free flow of material from their unconscious mind to their art. The hallmark of their work is a jarring juxtaposition of ideas and/or images that resembles those in dreams and nightmares.
SURREALISM IN THE VISUAL ARTS
In surrealism, ideas often manifest as archetypes (universal symbols), making it possible for surreal art and literature to be understood by everyone. Deep psychological truths and connections may be revealed in symbolic form.
Salvador Dali suggests this connection in what may be the best-known of all surreal paintings, The Persistence of Memory (above). The clue to this jarring image lies in the title. As suggested by his melted clocks, the past is gone forever, except in our memories.
But when we sleep (as suggested by the sleeping walrus-like creature) our mind makes sense of our memories by ordering them and converting some into archetypal symbols. A clinical study recently demonstrated that, while asleep, we replay our dreams many times, gradually reducing the emotional content and increasing the symbolic content.
SURREALISM IN LITERATURE
French writer Arthur Rimbaud (forefather to the Surrealist movement) takes a simple plot— a boat-ride down a river— and turns it into a lucid nightmare.
In his poem The Drunken Boat, crew members die at the onset, but this doesn’t concern the narrator, who wants his boat to drift so he can explore uncharted waters. Logic and linearity are discarded, a clue that we are entering surrealism.
As the narrator sinks deeper into his unconscious, his boat also sinks, and he is left floating on the sea in a death-trance:
And from that time on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, star-infused and churned into milk,
Devouring the green azures… entranced in pallid flotsam.
Rimbaud’s wildly creative language amazes me, even in translation. There’s no way that these words originated in his conscious mind. Notice how he uses only two words (which aren’t normally used together)— “pallid flotsam”— to conjure up a floating, moonlit corpse.
If you’d like something more modern, try these lyrics by Australian poet/songwriter Steve Kilbey of The Church:
"They’re going to send you away" she said
Psychic angels spread on the top of her head
And in the compartments of my dread
The rush hour crush travels home to bed
"You never seem to hear" she smiled
Statues tiptoe for a glimpse of the child
The lawns are always lush and wild
Spacious floors bejeweled and tiled
"How are you getting home" she laughed
Mermaids drowned but I clung to the raft
It’s just the water in the bath
An interlude for the busy staff
Drowning is a theme here as well, but it’s only part of the story. This is an evocative picture of a psychiatric hospital visit, complete with a look inside the heads of both the visitor and the patient. Kilbey’s point of view is deliberately enigmatic— the anxious visitor may see a deluded woman, while the patient seems to see the hospital as her palace and her bathtub as a sea inhabited by mermaids.
What about traumatic events (and their resulting dreams) that cannot be reduced to symbols and/or archetypes? In my experience, these are particularly difficult to resolve.
When society experiences important events that cannot be understood as existing archetypes, it’s up to artists to create new ones. Above, David Bowers does just that in his portrayal of global warming as a femme fatale. This artist suggests that global warming is a lethal event driven by our greed and lust.
Surrealism is a particularly relevant art form in times of turmoil and social upheaval. What is the current state of the U.S. governmental gridlock if not surreal? I think Derek Nobbs (above; notice the background pattern) agrees with me, as he portrays one of the most frightening archetypes I can imagine— a cruel and nihilistic ruler, in this case with his head emptied of all knowledge.
*Characteristics of Surrealism:
A dream-like quality.
Bizarre or illogical juxtaposition of ideas or images in a thought-provoking way.
Breakdown of logical thought.
Symbols or archetypes that speak to our conscious as well as our unconscious minds.
A dark and/or ironic sense of humor.
Photo credits: 1. Virgo Paraiso, A Taste of Paradise; 2. Untitled by Maura Holden, 3. The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali, 3. Untitled by David M. Bowers, 4 and 5: Artists Unknown 6. A Hole in the Head So All Knowledge May Pass by Derek Nobbs.
Copyright 2013 by Ann Marcaida.
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TO VIEW THE FILMS AND POETRY OF SMUT, CLICK ON THE LINKS IN THIS ARTICLE.
If you’re in search of artistic chameleons, look no further than Sinister Minister Underground Theatre (aka SMUT). This versatile group led by Robbert J. Bricker (The Undeniable) includes four Gather.com members who contribute outstanding film, music, photography, and poetry to the site.
SMUT’s work, produced in the bleak urban landscape of Pittsburgh, explores themes of personal alienation amidst urban and global decay. Much of their art is about being caged, whether one is stuck in a crumbling inner city neighborhood or born into a body with the “wrong” sexual orientation.
I met The Undeniable, an internationally-known musician, director and editor, when he was a finalist in Gather.com’s music video competition (here’s his entry, Rock-N-Roll Star). This video, the first professional multimedia I found on Gather, sent my inner art critic into ecstacy.
What impresses me most about SMUT’s films and videos is their ability to take images from an ordinary urban landscape— a dog walk, a couple of geese by a river, a friend who lingers, depressed, on a fire escape— and transform them into universal art. Click here to watch Gauss’ film Walking Jake, a visit with a very gifted canine. The Undeniable’s dancetrack makes it hard to sit still!
The mood of SMUT’s film Dead Dolls River Club (produced for Nine Inch Nails) is completely different. Consisting of little more than a pair of geese hanging out by a river, this film easily matches Blair Witch Project in its eerie simplicity. Images of the paired geese are layered over brief glimpses of mutilated dolls as sirens sound in the background— a tribute to murder victims whose bodies were dumped in the Allegheny river.
My favorite SMUT film is No Man No One Sees, which received one of their three Pill Award nominations (NYC). This tale of personal metamorphosis starts out looking like a Michael Jackson tribute, then slowly peels back the layers of its characters . The accursed somehow come to rest in a rainy Garden of Eden, while the accusers land in their own apocalyptic Hell.
But SMUT’s newest short film Burn That Closet Down goes beyond their earlier work. In addition to escaping their cage, SMUT members are bent on destroying it.
Burn That Closet Down is a chilling allegorical tale of Bricker’s coming out (he’s a former evangelical preacher). This ode to the pain of releasing a hidden inner self is largely symbolic, but the kicky soundtrack by the Undeniable and Judas Dean supplies the rant (review and film trailer here).
Perhaps the most surprising art emerging from SMUT is the poetry of actor/musician John Kimball and director Tom Bradley. In contrast to The Undeniable’s straightforward emotional lyrics, the poetry of Kimball and Bradley is complex and multi-layered, and their narrators seem continuously astonished at their world (more on Kimball’s poetry here). One of his most astonishing poems comes from a series in which Lucifer confronts God:
Excerpt from Supernova Sunrise by John Kimball:
And I realized
by the way you walked through me
when I stood in front of you with my arms open
you couldn’t see me anymore.
This is my declaration of war.
You first, you infinite smoke
you bastard child of oblivion
you infinite shadow
you will be brought to your knees
as you expect everyone else to be.
Your throne will be used as kindling
your righteousness will be obliterated
as you learn what it feels like to sing a song no one else will hear.
You will learn humility.
SMUT’s work is an eye-opening treat with a universal message: destroy the cages and boxes in which you find yourself, whether self-imposed or society-imposed. Then reach for the stars.
SMUT members are endless-motion machines— they never rest and they never stop creating. Theandrogynous divinity in Bradley’s poem Lunar 98 seems to speak for SMUT as they restlessly seek new creative territory:
Oh but I feel it growing in us. The husky voice of the goddess in my ear, “Honey, move on. There’s nothing more to see here.”
Catch SMUT here at Gather before they move on. This talented group is going places.
(Kudos also to SMUT members Szelc and Barb Magee. Both are production asssistants and actresses who appear in Man No One Sees).
A mandala is a symbolic, concentric diagram representing both the universe and the individual.
In the Buddhist tradition, a mandala is a guide to the process of self-discovery. In theory, meditating on a mandala helps one to travel progressively through their unconscious, ultimately reaching the center of their psyche.Then, armed with this self-knowledge, the individual can begin to strive outwards, working towards enlightenment and an end to suffering.
A mandala is seen as a symbolic means to discovering divinity by realizing that it resides within oneself. So what? That’s a pretty abstract concept. How can a picture help one achieve enlightenment?
As an example, consider the life of artist-activist Lily Yeh. In her own words, "I got in touch with my inner light. Now I use it to ignite other people’s pilot lights. Making art in a destitute place is like lighting a fire in the dead of night."
Below you’ll find a link to a video in which Lily explains her life’s work. This is one of the most moving testimonials I’ve ever heard.
A brief synopsis:
Lily Yeh began her outreach in inner-city Philadelphia, creating mosaics (often in mandala or tree of life patterns) in abandoned lots. Her helpers included children, homeless persons, and drug addicts. Says Lily “We are all broken in one way or another. We put our heads together like broken pieces of tile.”
Lily formed a bond with a homeless drug addict, Joseph Williams, who eventually became sober and also became her spiritual guide.
Later, with the help of another guide, Lily felt called to heal the wounds of genocide in a Rwandan village. She helped the community construct an elaborate monument containing the bones of their loved ones, providing a sense of closure to their mourning. During this process, the people of the village learned how to build mosaic and pour concrete, both marketable skills.
Lily then asked the Rwandan children to create paintings of things they hoped to see in their future, such as cows and computers. Thanks to Lily’s catalysis, the village eventually became profitable by African standards, acquiring livestock, sewing machines, and solar panels.
So, give a listen to this amazing video below about Lily Yeh’s mandala journey based on her core inspiration (a love of art) which she transformed into an outward journey. Lily Yeh is a living example of a bodhisattva.
Thanks to my poet friend Atticus (Dan Collins) for inspiring this article with his tribute to Lily Yeh:
"…Until an empty lot is endless resource,
your darkest devastation is transformation;
Until your weakness is equalized
by the hands of need;
Copyright 2013 by Ann Marcaida.
Robert Wright, a scholar of biology and religion, has a daring suggestion. In an editorial in The New York Times, he lays ground for a truce in the battle over evolution. What follows is a condensed version of his essay.
According to Wright, both believers and atheists need to cede some logical points to reach common ground. I’ll start, as does his essay, with believers.
Believers need a more modern theology, one that accepts that God did his work remotely, and his role in biological evolution ended when he created natural selection.
Although I adore children, I dread it whenever a proud parent pulls out a commercial portrait. I brace for the inevitable: kids wearing blindingly-bright clothes and posed against a garish background, staring at me with frozen smiles.
My confused eyes look everywhere except at the children’s faces. And the people who produce these ghastly images call themselves “Children’s Photographers”? They’d be better off photographing still-lifes.
Recently, however, I discovered someone who is a children’s photographer in the true sense. Patrisha McLean of Camden, Maine creates magical, realistic portraits of children using her artist’s eye, her journalist’s experience and her keen love of nature.
McLean’s outdoor portraits focus on her subjects’ expressions and personalities. For this photographer, children are not only an object of love but also a beautiful manifestation of nature, to be studied in detail and have their images preserved for eternity.
During her photo shoots, McLean enters her subjects’ world. Instead of directing kids, she encourages them to run around and be themselves, play dress-up, and generally take the lead in their own photo session. She’ll even run after the energetic kids, which is no easy task when you’re toting a large professional film camera! Patrisha McLean’s spontaneous, un-posed portraits are the antithesis of garish department-store photos.
Like many children’s photographers, McLean became interested in portraiture after becoming a mother. Her early portraits (above), though unrefined in comparison to her later work, reveal an uncanny ability to capture un-posed innocence.
This little girl, with her sleepy eyes and drooping rose, looks as if she just got out of bed and has no idea what she’s doing in a photograph. The image fades away at the edges, like its subject’s fleeting youth. This monochrome portrait is so heart-breakingly shy and sweet that it becomes an indictment of the ugliness of commercial color portraits and their failure to capture the essential beauty of children.
As McLean’s interest in portraiture grew, she began studying photography and taking pictures of her children’s friends. Within a few years, she became a professional.
Wisely, Patrisha McLean has never attempted to work in color. Her universe is a monochrome universe of children romping in fields, thickets, and woods full of natural light and texture. McLean’s gorgeous commissioned portraits never fail to capture the ephemeral nature and magic of childhood.
Though she still does commissioned work on a limited basis, McLean is now focusing on her fine art series Flower Girls, with the intent of publishing a book in the near future.
The major theme emerging from the Flower Girls series is McLean’s fascination with the journey of the maiden, from birth through adolescence. Throughout her career, as McLean’s work progressed and her own children approached adolescence, her portraits of young girls became increasingly complex, symbolic, and even dark.
Nora with Old Roses (2003; top) is a lovely but simple comparison of a young girl with the heirloom roses McLean loves.
In contrast, Riley with Old Roses, Dreaming (2006; bottom) is a more complex study. There’s more visual motion in this portrait, perhaps suggesting impending womanhood and its monthly ebbs and flows.
Riley is dressed in black and her eyes are closed. If McLean didn’t tell us otherwise with her title, we’d assume that she’s dead. And, of course, that’s part of McLean’s point— the girl must die in order to make way for the woman.
As McLean’s work continued, her backgrounds became more threatening and the girls’ expressions more grim.
Often, I find her playing with our expectations of seeing a “Flower Girl” in the traditional sense— at a wedding. At first glance Frances with Old Roses (2006; top) could be a portrait of a little girl in a wedding party.
But as I look more closely, I wonder why Frances’ expression is so tense and the bouquet is clutch to her chest like a shield. Is it because someday soon, if she survives the difficult road to adulthood, she’ll be the “de-flowered” bride and not the Flower Girl?
In Clara with Rhododendrons (2006; bottom) the background is even more oppressive, and Clara, wearing a veil and a tense expression, is pressed and stifled by the vegetation around her. She seems about to disappear from view. Her torturous road to adulthood seems to weigh heavily on McLean’s mind.
McLean’s magnum opus, however, is her 2002 portrait Hillary with Hydrangeas. The first time I saw this portrait, I gasped with astonishment. Is this Dante’s Beatrice, gazing calmly at me from a place of eternal darkness? Will the shadowy background swallow her? Or will the bright, angel-shaped flowers, which Hillary holds out like a candle, protect her?
McLean has produced something I would never have thought possible— a portrait of a Goth Flower Girl. Light and dark, yin and yang, are in perfect balance. A picture of a girl holding flowers somehow transcends its original meaning to become a statement about the dualistic nature of our universe.
Beware of Patrisha McLean’s work. It’s potent. If you spend too much time looking with it, you may never again be able to look at a department-store portrait.
All photographs copyright 2013 by Patrisha McLean, reproduced with her permission. Image resolution has been lowered for online publication. To contact McLean or see more of her work, click on the link below.
Copyright 2013 by Ann Marcaida