Sunday, May 3, 2009

Returning Abroad, Leaving Home

The Watercolors
"Souvenir," means to remember. A souvenir acquired while traveling is brought back home (a small crystal bottle from Versailles, let’s say.) Through its displaced physical presence -- it came from somewhere else -- the object disrupts the present. Is that how we remember something? Watercolor brush marks animate small blue and white bedroom interiors rippling the present tense of their photographic source images, like cyanotype snapshots. At 16, the girl’s bedroom at home in New York City, in the year 2007, becomes a point of departure. Her souvenirs remind her that further adventures await her and that at some moment in the future, she will make her own way and her own home.

The Paintings
The last royal resident of The Chateau Versailles was another girl, who at 14, in 1769, left her mother in Austria to become Queen Consort of France and of Navarre. The presence of the paint, in layers and strokes, supports the nearly life-size images of gilt furnishings from Marie Antoinette’s palace, covered in yellow, red and blue. Taken outside like the chairs, the images slip off the edges, as if pulled toward the water. The swirls and curves of the Queen’s carpets and chairs gaze back to the decorative bottle on the girl’s bedside table, across the wake of the Atlantic Ocean. Messages under the waving surfaces are migratory commands. The pattern repeats. The story repeats.

The Video
From the translucent souvenir flows a video of free associations: memories from the trip and from further back in time. With a cross dissolve logic moments remembered vie with the pull of the present. Images collect, connect, sort and fade: a walk along the Rue de Rivoli, a rooftop in Manhattan, and a cloudy day at Versailles. A photographic veneer hovers under the animated flow of paint forms and strokes. Typewritten reflections describe the adorned fountains in the formal gardens at Versailles. A landscape is mirrored across the water.

Later we can see that leaving home happens in marked stages. Making her new home at Versailles, the young Queen shed her girlhood clothes, wearing now only clothes of the Court. New experiences, new responsibilities. Her golden chairs encircle the round table, pulling back toward the water. The North Fork marshes of the girl’s childhood summers flood her dreams. From whose mind’s eye are these images being projected? Who is writing the story? The girl is my daughter. These are my paintings. I hold hopes, as any mother does, for my child to make a home for herself -- to fearlessly define her own world.

Image above:  Anne Sherwood Pundyk, "Journal", 2008, 10" x 10.75", watercolor on paper

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