I met Peter back when we were both attending Massachusetts College of Art. I took photos of him as part of my final project for a photo class, and in 1990 we exhibited together in a two person show called Collections, Recollections and Souvenirs.
Find out what he’s up to these days at www.petermadden.com.
While every picture might tell a story, sometimes the back of the picture hints at several others. Scrawled, scratched and painted on the back of the painting now titled Comfort Zone are the following notations: MAY 2001… Reworked 6-10-01… Re-Worked Again August 2002… “Typhoon”… 2005 NOV… COMFORT ZONE 2007.
I don’t have photos of all these various states, but I do have pictures of the two most important states.
First is Typhoon:
Typhoon is a self-portrait. The title was taken from a fortune cookie fortune which is part of the painting (the long rectangle in the dark area below my hand). As the painting was reworked, the “Learn Chinese” text became illegible.
A key element of this painting is an image of a house, a recurring motif, and I think a symbol of the search for security. Additional images of note are a person swimming (above the peak of the house), a pair of disembodied wings (bottom right), and the Page of Pentacles (also at bottom right).
The image in the center is a Photoshopped photo of myself, playing my electric guitar circa 1999-2000. For the record I am a terrible guitar player, but I bought the electric guitar shortly after the end of a long relationship, and wailing way on it was somehow very comforting. I doubt my neighbors of the time would concur on this, but I digress.
The center of the painting was alway problematic. In the first iterations of this painting, the center was a void. Then it housed the above image of myself. And finally (?) it houses the image of a friend:
I took this photo back in 1990 as part of a final project for a photography class. The theme of the project was artists in their studios.
The painting is now called Comfort Zone:
It may seem odd to change a self-portrait into a portrait, but it makes a certain sense to me. At the time of the completion of Comfort Zone, she occupied a similar mental space as I did when this painting was first conceived. The painting feels more finished than it ever did before. Will I change it again in the future? I don’t think so, but I’m not willing to bet the farm on it either. Stay tuned.
Sometimes paintings take several years and multiple iterations to find their final form, and sometimes they come together very quickly. The Hand That Takes is one of the latter.
If you break the painting down into its component parts, you could say there was a long gestation period. I took the photograph that appears in the middle of the painting in 1989. The hand on the left is a photocopy, enlarged over and over again from an image of a neoclassical sculpture, and dates to around the same time.
The painting itself was executed in 2005, and if memory serves, I completed it in one or two short sessions. A good friend (who is now the owner of the painting) came by my studio while it was still sitting on the easel. It was dry, but I was pondering what else might need to be done to it.
“It’s finished,” he said. “Resist the urge to go in and tweak it,” he added, knowing full well how sometimes my intended minor adjustments become major changes.
I took the canvas off the easel and agreed to set it aside. I let it sit where I could see it and moved on to another painting. A few weeks later I came to agree that he was right.
The Hand That Takes
Acrylic, photograph and collage on canvas
22″ x 28″