Sunday, January 10, 2016

Three Questions

What is it?

It is an 81.9 cm x 121.3 cm realist painting by Andrew Wyeth, entitled Christina's World (1948).

How is it made?

It is made of tempura on gessoed panel.

What does it mean/How is it relevant?

The strength of this painting lies in its narrative(s). Could it have been made with a camera, an actor and a rural landscape? I would say only insofar as its actor was able to pose in a way that would be difficult to achieve by someone who is able-bodied; for the person in this picture is not able-bodied but distorted by illness or injury, and this illness or injury infects what I think this person is yearning for (if she is yearning at all).

The feeling I get from this representation is not desire but its more complex form, a mix of desire and disgust, further complicated by necessity. Because of the subject's physical condition, what she wants might include more than a) the house (a home); b) the person inside this house (a potential friend, a potential lover); or c) something that the person in this house might or might not be aware of. If it is not a salve the subject is seeking, then it might be a remedy or a cure.

Why this painting is relevant is not because it allows for a complex meditation on desire but because of its potential to reflect our present attitudes toward illness: that the desires of those with illnesses are different from those who do not suffer from them. Why the subject of this painting should be judged differently from those who are able-bodied is the same as asking, Why is it that every time someone lights a cigarette in a movie, we wonder if a) that person is of a questionable character; b) the cigarette will be used to torture the person sitting opposite; or c) the house is about to burn down?

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