I knew who I was this morning
|I Knew Who I Was This Morning. 36 x 36" (this is the new version)|
I once had a client tell me that she was considering purchasing my large 4-paneled depiction of a "House of Cards." It was to be placed behind the desk of a sprawling corporate office. The color and scale were perfect, she said.
Ultimately, though, she did not purchase when it struck her that the subject matter was not an appropriate message for this CEO. The image of a falling house of cards may not be the most confidence instilling! And I must say, though sorry to not have the sale, I had to agree.
Images carry messages. That's part of the job. And sometimes the message does not want to be heard, as in the famous UN press conference when Colin Powell announces the case for war against Iraq. For the conference, the large tapestry behind the podium depicting Picasso's Guernica was covered in a blue curtain. The havoc of a bombed village, Picasso's war protest, was a not-so-subliminal message to TV viewers worldwide.
I never pursued the concept after the 4-paneled House of Cards. Deterioration was not my desired message. Although I loved painterly possibilities, and I normally work in series, I discarded the theme and left this as a 'one off.'
Then out of the blue, with the opportunity afforded by the Ciel juried exhibition, Build, I saw a way to revisit the idea. It had been 20 years since I painted the first House of Cards. Would this message stack up differently?
Go Ask Alice
|John Tenniel illustration|
I found inspiration in Wonderland. After she suffers the Queen's tyranny, Alice finally reveals that the cruel, irrational Queen was 'just a pack of cards,' Alice finds her courage in this revelation.
Alice discovers that Fear, like a pack of cards, could be disassembled with a single good exhale.
I Knew Who I Was This Morning
In Wonderland, I found yet another interpretation that spoke to me through a hookah. One that, perhaps, celebrates our fragility and impermanence.
In Alice's adventures:
The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
`Who are YOU?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.
Alice replied, rather shyly, `I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
And of course, if anyone should know change, it would be a Caterpillar.
Could "House of Cards" represent metamorphosis? The idea of building a changing house of cards, suddenly becomes a beautiful one. The idea of fragile walls that fall, rebuild, reshape, learn, reconfigure became something to seek and celebrate.
In traditional Japanese architecture, impermanence is valued. Natural materials return to earth and continue their life's cycle. In Hinduism, Kali is Goddess of both Destruction and Creativity. So while the two-sided coin of destruction/creativity may not an original idea, I loved using the cards as my message's carrier pigeon.
No blue curtains, please
In this stage of my life, where I presumed a sort of stasis might set in, I now celebrate the excitement of change and adaptability. The falling house of cards, proclaims the healthy destruction of concepts and the rebuilding of new possibilities.
New adventures in Wonderland.
After all, it's only a pack of cards.