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John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

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Seymour Chwast

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Peacock Moon


Peacock Moon, acrylic on linen, 30 x 20 inches


 I TRY TO CREATE a feeling of stillness in my paintings.  I want the paintings to visually suggest a lull, a sense of portent, slowing a moment right down to its core of frozen energy. I do this because I know that each viewer will bring a different set of life experience to the art, and this enables them to be able to come up with a totally different “story” than the artist’s.


That said, the curator of my recent summer exhibition asked me to write the “story” behind each of my paintings and posted these mini-essays next to the paintings. She felt this would help viewers to engage with the art and that the artist’s “story” at least would give the viewer a platform from which to depart.


Above is the art, and here is the way it came about: I have always been enamored of an antique white garden bench which I have had forever. The bench sings a song to me with its swirling G-clef motif on the seat and rambling flowered vines on the back. I wanted to paint those delightful patterns. I then added a couple of birds to give the painting a little bit of color. In order to balance the composition, and for mystery, I added a bride and groom in their wedding finery rowing in a boat in the moonlight.
 

But here’s the “story” behind the art:

P. Koch and his bride, Henrietta, whom he called “Hen,” embarked on their new forever life. It didn’t turn out exactly as planned, however, because they got caught under the spell of the Peacock Moon. This moon was so exquisitely beautiful that Hen became enchanted and felli n love with it. This infuriated P. In an attempt to make himself more desirable than the moon, P. donned all of the jewelry he had brought on board to bestow upon his bride. When he finished, Hen told him he was indeed more dazzling than the moon and that she would love him forever.

As if in answer to Hen’s sentiment, the jilted moon started pelting them with jewels that were bigger and brighter than either of them had ever seen. P. quickly gathered and fastened the gems to his tuxedo tails to insure Henrietta’s continued love. The boat, now heavy with the extra weight of the moon jewels, sunk quickly.

Just as P. approached the bottom of the river, his bejeweled tails magically turned into colorful feathers which buoyed him up to the surface. Henrietta grabbed onto the feathers and together they floated downriver in the reflected colors of the Peacock Moon. Finally, they landed on an island with a single bench, where they remained for eternity.

P. Koch had become exquisitely beautiful but couldn’t do much anymore. With all the added weight, he moved slowly and awkwardly. He also lost his power of speech and instead had an ugly squawk for a voice. The formerly lovely Henrietta curiously started sprouting brown feathers all over. She had taken on all the colors of the Peacock Moon as they mixed together in her reflection in the river. Alone her colors were brilliant, but when mixed, they turned a muddy brown. And so did she.

As it became clear to the two of them that this was to be their forever life, and that there was no going back to their former existence, there was but one thing left to do. P. made a nameplate and hung it on their new home–the  bench.  It read: “Peacock and Peahen forever.”

Artists have long been inspired by peacocks. Here’s a painting done in 1683 by the Dutch artist Melchior d’ Hondecoeter. I could look at this one…
 

Forever,                                                        

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