As evening descends, I sometimes study my work without turning on the lights. In the painting’s reflected light, I lose myself in reveries of these elusive phantoms, as I used to do in movie theaters. Film also creates a shadowy world, but of projected light, in a darkened room, which may in itself evoke an erotic sensation. In fact, the power of both painting and cinema lies in the way each medium blends a sense of presence with absence. To take it a step farther, any image of Eros portrays the tragedy of our separateness.
Some aspects of cinema’s influence on me are based in the silent era. Both Follies Dancers: Beatrice and Beth, and A Shining Tangle are nearly monochromatic, like the tinted films of a century ago. In the former painting, we are given a view into a studio with two jazz-age dancers, the incandescent first generation of women who rejected the roles laid down before them to chart their own paths.
The latter painting is like an image from some lost ancient epic in which mortal men are imperiled by their encounter with two giant manifestations of the divine. This is a humorous look at male anxiety that may also recall the more tendentiously kitschy 1958 film, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
In the large kaleidoscopic montage, Orphic-Agon, a scene evolved from memories of several important people from my past. Here several woman experience the desire for unity with another; other women struggle against that fusion. The late Marsha Tucker saw a mythic depiction of the early feminist struggle between white middle-class women and African-American women.
This painting was on my easel when I returned home after the morning of September 11, 2001. The view out my studio window included a horrific pillar of smoke, in place of the towers. In the painting, the figure falling from the sky had a new and indelible meaning; the painting had changed.
David Carbone is a painter, critic, and curator living in New York City. He has shown his work across the country and written for various print and online publications.