Recently, a painting left my studio to go to a good home of a good friend. I miss it. The blank spot 0n the wall compels me to write something.
The silver bowl is familiar. My father's bowl finds its way into many paintings. I love the way it reflects what is in the studio. It seems by accident, things appear that I wasn't aware of. The surprise this time was the back of the easel caught in the inside, upper right part of the bowl. A friend looking at the painting thought it was a cross that I had deliberately included to represent the religion of the Christians in the photo. No, I didn't, it just appeared as I painted, and it seemed right to keep.
Behind the silver bowl is a piece of antique French cloth. The cloth may date back to a time when France was a colonial power in Northern Africa (the part of the troubled world in the Times article). How strong, linear, and rational the cloth seemed. I was struck by the contrast between the cloth's self-presentation and the vulnerability, confusion, and irrationality in the scene photographed. The cloth represents a kind of imposition of order, an exercise of power, that was out of place decades ago and remains out of place, unjust and uncaring.
The hardest part of this painting was the face as it appears on the side of the bowl. I had to redo it so many times. The face always seemed to turn out too peaceful, without the extreme pain that the photographer caught. I think I finally got it, but I still wonder why it didn't come earlier. Or maybe I know. More on this struggle later.