This is the 6th image in a series of bird paintings completed in 2021. The narrative, invariably develops over time. Perhaps it is a response to the pandemic, feeling somewhat out of place in familiar surroundings. In every painting the focus is on mystery, a truth that is elusive. As always, the viewer is asked to participate in telling the story.
September 12, 2022
December 08, 2021
Bruce Dean’s intersection is a poignant and timely painting that captures many of our contemporary concerns and anxieties while harkening back to the mysterious compositions of Surrealist masters.
Of late, the world has been at an intersection of the familiar and the unknown. The pandemic has completely upended our world. Within only a few days the most basic aspects of our lives, things that felt set-in-stone, completely and fundamentally changed. Before the pandemic, it was easier to imagine war than the surreal (I mean, is there a more apt descriptor?) world we now live in. We are undoubtedly at a historical crossroads where, for better or for worst, nothing will remain as it did before.
Everything from global affairs to our personal lives has been irrevocably upended. Like intersection’s flock of birds, we have felt alone in disconcertingly empty landscapes, aside from a small “pod” of people with whom we can (sort of) safely mingle. To be outside but to feel alone, to be with a group but to feel isolated, desolate streets which only a short time before teamed with life, and a collapsing of individuality behind masks can all be found in intersection. The work’s vacant street has become a familiar sight to all, so to the pack-like mentality of fraternizing with a singular chosen group and the uniformity of their appearance. The painting does not seek to cast judgment in one direction or the other, but, instead, to capture the ethos of the time and the universality of our concerns.
The direction and purpose of the birds are of tantamount importance when viewed through the lens of societies’ present predicaments. Are the birds escaping or returning? On the individual level (those lucky enough to have options) are faced with the decision to escape the virus or to remain in the thick of it. As a society, we wonder if we should attempt to return to the pre-pandemic world or if we should advance into a new one. We further wonder if a return is even possible. Beyond these parallels, our reaction to the painting can be revealing about our state of mind. As I initially contemplated the picture, I found a sort of wistful envy overtake me. To go about my normal existence, unworried by the many problems facing humanity, and, untouched, fly above today’s environment of upheaval seemed so wonderful and liberating I could not help myself from briefly entertaining the thought: “I wish I were a goose.”
The painting is positively rich with allusions to Surrealism. The barren road is instantly reminiscent of Giorgio de Chirico’s eerily lifeless streets. Intersection is suspended in some indeterminate moment, neither night nor day, while a sole red stop light and a vacant phone booth create a ghostly aura of a human presence without a human touch. These same motifs and provocations are found in René Magritte’s paintings of simultaneous yet opposed times of day presiding over empty streets lined with phantom lights and houses that give both the impression of life and the total absence of it (checkout Magritte’s masterpiece The Empire of Light, II in the Museum of Modern Art, New York). The incongruous presence of the birds in their decidedly human surroundings and the surreal sight of their very physiognomy replacing our own, calls to mind Salvador Dali’s and Leonora Carrington’s (if you don’t know her, look her up; she’s the gift that keeps on giving) evocative and often humorous use of animals in their work.
So much of Surrealism boils down to strange bedfellows. The visual contradictions, and the thoughts they instill in us, caused by placing discordant things within the same picture inspire a host of conclusions that otherwise would have escaped us. By drawing our attention to and forming connections with the overtly surreal, these artists lead us to consider our lives in a new light and reveal the quotidian or wide-reaching absurdities of existence. Animals constituting the only lifeform in an area designed by and for humans, night and day becoming one, an absence where there should be a presence and visa versa, and technology operating for a phantom audience are the things that form the visual foundation of Surrealism. It does not have to be overtly political, and it loses its surreal air if it makes obvious and concrete points; it is sustained by mystery. The power of surrealism is the power of incongruity; the feeling that something is terribly out of place and the mirror these inharmonious pairings put in front of reality.
December 08, 2021
When i begin a painting It is always solely about imagery, choosing elements, adding elements, never assessing the narrative or the reason behind the choices. The narrative becomes clearer over time. I finished this painting before I realized it might be about the pandemic. I always learn from interacting with viewers. I am learning that painting has become part of my thinking process. Images often precede verbalization. I have learned a great deal from this critique, and will no doubt incorporate elements from it in my discussions.
- Figurative, Surrealism
- Painting - Unframed
- Oil, Canvas
48.00 inches wide
36.00 inches tall
1.60 inches deep
- 14.00 lbs
- Los Angeles, CA, US