Friday, August 04, 2006

Art Meme II

The recently-alluded-to commuter marriage that we Meridians have embarked on has thrown interesting (in the "May you live in interesting times" sense of that adjective) wrenches into our respective living arrangements: Mrs. Meridian, for as long as she can stand it, is now living with her parents after having lived on her own or with me for the past 5 years; I, meanwhile, am experiencing at an empirical level that basic truth, Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, as I attempt to settle much of what was contained in a 2-bedroom apartment into a studio apartment half its size. At any rate, my particular circumstance forces me to acknowledge something: I have much more framed art (some originals, mostly posters) that I like to hang than I have wall space on which to hang it attractively (as opposed to cheek-by-jowl-y).

So. As I was choosing what to hang and where to hang it yesterday, I thought back on this art meme post, the idea for which came from the esteemed Fearful Syzygy of Delights for the Ingenious, and I thought of this variation on that meme:

Pick an image or object that you have "on view" in your house/apartment, and post it on your journal/blog. What do you think it says about you?
Behold, reader(s), the image I have chosen to share with you: Roy De Forest's Country Dog Gentleman (1972). Ours is a standard-sized poster, but the original measures 66 3/4"X97" and hangs in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Below the fold, you'll find what I think this work says about me--or, rather, us Meridians.

For the curious, here is a (brief but intriguing) biography of De Forest. Elsewhere on the 'Nets, I saw someone describing De Forest's work as a combination of Fauvism and the Marx Brothers, and for this particular painting that description seems very apt. To my eye, it's also strongly reminiscent of Georges Rodrigues' famous Blue Dog paintings, which we Meridians are also fond of but which we so far don't own a reproduction of.

But back to the De Forest. This is really Mrs. Meridian's more than it is mine; I bought it for her back in our dating days after we saw it in good old Fields Gallery in Lawrence, Kansas, and she said she liked it. So, one very important reason it's hanging in the new place is that it has all sorts of pleasant associations for me. But I like it apart from those associations, too.

One thing i very much like about it is its dynamic quality: it is simultaneously comic and a bit menacing (those happy Irish-setter-like doggy smiles in combination with those catatonic eyes); and it even has a bit of synesthesia at play as well--click on the image for a larger view to see that that concentric ovoid shape on the left is emanating from a howling dog's mouth. He sounds like the flesh of a papaya. There is as well something a bit primal, even archetypal, about it: the dogs bear strong resemblances to domestic breeds, but here, assembled around a tree rising like a totem from the painting's base, they evoke as well all dogs' ancestors, wolves. There is also, for me, the mystery of its title: which dog is the "Gentleman"? I assume it's the large brown dog in the center; but, within the context of the pack's group dynamic, he'll be the "gentleman" only for so long. But then again, pecking orders exist among groups of human gentlemen as well--and often get determined just as messily, no?

To sum up: this sure ain't a Vermeer or Velázquez, which you long-time reader(s) may be excused for having expected to see here. But both it and a Vermeer reproduction are present in a space where also exists a CD collection in which Parliament's One Nation Under a Groove is next to Arvo Pärt's Passio. So I'd say, by way of concluding, that Country Dog Gentleman by itself doesn't say much about me, but within the larger context of this (much) smaller space it makes me aware of the fact that, for better or for worse, I have pretty eclectic tastes. Mrs. Meridian says that that's one thing she appreciates about me, and as the kids say (or used to say--I've lost track), I'm down wi' dat.

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Mrs. Meridian said...

That painting says a lot about our marriage, too. That painting is just a little weird, but interesting to look at, and a little cool, too. (That was a horrible sentence.)

It's also like our kookie mix of normal (you) and crazy (me).

Good times.

I'll see you tonight.

Winston said...

If you have high ceilings, or if you are excessively short, then you can hang posters, etc. from "clothes-lines" running across your living space. Most people look for more horizontal space, but for some strange reason I have always tried to use the vertical space, which is generally wasted. Think cubic...

R. Sherman said...

Good question. I hope to have time to answer it and find a non-copyrighted version to post.