In darker places, the most positive and active thing I can see is sleep.  Headstones and congregations alike sing ‘Asleep in Jesus.’  Playing such a lead life-role, sleep has found its way into the tradition of death.  Sleep means something to you too, reader, and so it’s big.

Bodies asleep can also look dead.  In that case, my bodies have not been dead for long or their deadness has been painted over.  I prefer to start them off sleeping.  Bodies are figures painted on canvases, but they are also canvas-bodies.  When you look at my painted cloths stretched over wood, are they as children sleeping to you?  The critical gaze is absent for some in the presence of a sleeping child.  Could at least one person looking at my painting have that experience?  Could it be me?

Here I’m not talking about dreaming, just as my paintings aren’t showing Heaven or immortality.  You already get that because you carry it with you.  An elephant and a duck stand before you, without foreground and background and without the mental environment that is personal to me.  The most that I choose to (or can) give with a painting is objects.

From the navel of a nude climb twenty two yellow chrysanthemums.  The twenty second is not yet fully bloomed.  The woman’s face is one of veiled absence.  It wears joy as merely a glaze over absent life or an emotionless state.  It is similar to the expression of a duck in another painting. The duck is held in the air by an elephant, wrapped inside of its trunk.  The facial expression is necessarily light and unforced because its body is in the care of the elephant.  The duck’s orange foot hangs loose to meet the orange poppies that grow from the lower edge of the canvas.

I regularly place children’s objects or images from a child’s world onto my adult objects/canvas bodies.  There is no perverse intention to or story behind such placement.  If anything, the child on the surface of the old and tired canvas exposes a spoiled, maybe selfish, young adult whose family, friends, and home seem more distant than the younger faces and toys of her youth.

In the grownup’s world, eyes closed do not signify death or sleep any more than eyes opened reveal life or wakefulness.    There are rectangles containing night skies and others made of mattresses and none guarantee rest.  Should creation share my interest in starting bodies off sleeping in order to approach dying, would it follow that death, too, will not afford me rest?

The most restless one I know is Emily Jane Bronte.  No lullaby of Heaven could sing her to sleep.  She knew the wind as I know it, filling the backyard of the home where I grew up dreaming of love as if I deserved it and as if Heaven rejoiced in giving it.  Is it not that the sunshine and the wind    lure from it self the mourner’s woe-worn mind;   And all the joyous music breathing by,   And all the splendour of that cloudless sky,   Re-give him shadowy gleams of infancy,    And draw his tired gaze from futurity?

Henri Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy lies comfortably with my work.  I see the painting as I saw a picture of it as a child.  I see the painting now, as an adult with specific death-strings attached.  Were the woman not lying down, the closeness of the human and animal story would be the primary signal of dreaming or sleeping.  There is also night, placement of objects, forging of objects: the gypsy’s rigid body and eyelids painted so thinly that she seems well awake –sleep does not guarantee rest.   See the nearness of death and sleep, how it preys upon the woman.  Or see, viewers, the woman’s fear; see your own fear.  See a relationship to death leap to the surface because of a painting of a sleeping body.

 

 

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