I have grown increasingly interested in toying with people’s curiosity and expectation. This experiment began with an interest in restricting the viewer’s experience and my personal, sentimental feelings for still life paintings. As I described in my last post about installation experiments, I started to relate to the installation as a large still life set-up and I was considering placing empty canvas stretcher frames about the installation to suggest windows or viewing points. This idea evolved into a situation where I would have even more control over the viewer’s viewing.
When I physically work on a project is when I have the most meaningful thoughts relating to my work. I can spend a good amount of time thinking about a project before I start making it, but once the actual labor begins things begin to reveal themselves and the work takes on its own spirit and identity. This case was another example of an idea expanding on its own and I merely being a vessel for this action.
In this project, titled Reflection, I built (with the help of danma) a 6′ cube. I have to attribute this decision to my budding curiosity about platonic solids thanks to my architect brother H. Weston Drumheller and his colleague Tom Houha (an architect and artist in his own right) who makes beautiful models of platonic solids.
Inside this cube I planned to create an installation or overgrown still life of some sort, which the viewer would be able to view through some kind of window without being able to view the whole set up comfortably. Materials I was considering using included more of the reflective privacy film, iridescent film, vinyl, faux fur and string. Additionally, I decided I would paint and photograph what the viewer would see and display both the painting and the photograph on opposite walls in a way where you couldn’t view all three at once. With this cube constructed, I encountered a problem when I had to decide what installation/still life I should put inside the box. The problem, I realized, wasn’t what to put in, but, why put anything in it since the subject of this work was no longer about what was seen but rather the experience of being led to look through what now had been scaled back to a quarter sized peephole.
When I began draping the cube with the black fabric, the spirit of the object morphed into that of a solemn, religious totem. The icon of the curtain or the veil evokes illusion and masquerade. It recalls the Kaaba of Islam. It suggests residence of the unknown. I’m very curious about the unknown and also curious about other peoples’ response to the unknown.
This still left the challenge of how to treat the inside of the cube. Intending to use the reiteration of the cube’s innards, photograph and painting as an element asking the viewer to consider multiple experiences of reality, I chose to follow through with the reflection theme and hang long, lengths of mirror privacy film inside the cube. I covered the cube with black cotton fabric, stapling along the edges, reminiscent of a gallery wrapped canvas. I am conscious of the fact that I am still painting. I photographed and made a painting of the peephole and hung them on the wall across from the peephole. The peephole is about belly height, so most adults must bend over to see through it. I had fully intended to cut one hole through the black fabric and a corresponding hole through the reflective film, but I decided to look through the hole in the fabric first to see what it was like. I was pleasantly surprised to see my own eye reflected back at me. The reflective film is somewhat transparent depending on lighting, very much like a two way mirror. The reflection of my eye appears in a circle with the space inside the box visible around it. The space appears very warped on the walls, but one can see the untreated cement floor and a little of the drab ceiling and fluorescent lighting. If you look just right, the illusion is that a roughly cut circle with your eye on it is floating in the middle of the black cube. This is impossible to photograph, it ends up being just a photograph of the camera lens through the peephole.
I’m looking forward to seeing how people react to this project. My hope is that they get a hint of my struggles as a painter to communicate ideas and experiences. I also hope that viewers experience the painting, photo reference and the peephole box as affirmations of the subject of the work being the experience and viewing action. Finally, I want viewers to experience a curiosity pertaining to the unknown, an enticement to look and a discovery of themselves looking back at them where there was something else expected.