Saturday, July 24, 2010

Celluloid Man

Celluloid Man, acrylic, 30x24
(aka Celluloid Man Meets his Match)

I had primed this canvas but needed a different size for a planned painting. Rather than put the canvas away, I set up a palette with ultramarine, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, and white and began painting without a single thought--started with an oval.

I took a photo of the first day's work, printed it out and toyed with ideas--Self-anointed One and Candle Man. I needed a reason for the melting (other than the heat here in southern Virginia). After a couple of days, a memory surfaced. Aha!

When I was very young (4 or 5) I loved a small celluloid doll that my father bought for me during our trip into town. As I sat with my mother in the front yard under the shade of the trees, she said, "If you strike a match to the doll's feet, she will smile." I did--and was horrified as I watched her melt. I cried for days. My mother had a great sense of humor but it was missing on that particular day--this is one of the few bad memories from my childhood.

Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be artists.

26 comments:

  1. I like it! It's very creative and original!:)

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  2. "Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be artists." That's brilliant Hallie! Another fabulous piece from you. I love it! The colors, the melting, the match.
    It brings up one of those less than Motherly moments from my childhood. I was putting newspapers into the fire and rolled a length into a cone. I lit it and shouted to my Mother, "Should I take a toke?" She said, "I dare you." So I did. Burned my lungs. My lung capacity was stunted permanently. My Mother's response, "Well- if I knew you were going to do it, I never would of dared you."
    Your painting reminded me of that- and then your description brought it home. WOW!!

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  3. OH- and I'm pretty sure if she had told me to light a match to make my doll smile, I would have never recovered. :-)) I guess Mothers are human too- even if it seems they should be absolutely perfect.

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  4. Hi Pauline. Thank you.

    Hi Pam. Both my kids are pretty good at art--who knows what they'll paint one day. I think it's inevitable that parents leave a few scars; some leave deep ones on lungs. (I had to look up "toke.") My doll memory should have been minor since I got a new toy from town every week. The "why" always bothered me, but when I identified "Celluloid Man" I was able to finally laugh at my stupidity (evidently, I was always allowed to play with matches). It's possible that my mother never had a doll of her own.

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  5. Your paintings and view of life--kinda sideways or something-- constantly intrique me. Who knows what you'll come up with. I especially love the stories you connect to your art, even this story! You have a way of taking us there, which is what I love.
    My brothers used to burn army guys, they make the weirdest sound as they melt and drip.

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  6. Indigomar, hi. I kinda like "kinda sideways." I always felt things deeply so I probably stepped off to the side early in life--a way to survive, and humor helps. Now that you mention the sound of melting and dripping, I remember the smell--sickly sweet.

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  7. When I saw how Celluloid Man was melting I was reminded of the Fireball jaw breakers of my youth. When you could get a good bite out of one of them (thankfully, I broke no teeth) they looked a lot like CM's cranium.

    I really like your painting, but I stay away from telling mother stories - they bring back memories I choose to stay sideways of...

    -Don

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  8. Hi Don. I stayed away from jaw breakers because I spent a lot of my youth in the dentist's chair. Celluloid Man just made an appearance after about 64 years of being on the sidelines--thought I'd acknowledge him-- and I got to play with matches again (research).

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  9. Love your painting and it certainly illustrates the feeling we are having with this heat! Global warming? My parents were more into punishment than humor and always took the fun out of playing with matches, etc.

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  10. Fascinating work.
    It has been delightful
    to visit your gallery.
    Good Creations

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  11. Thank you, Eva. Yes, I think it's Global warming--our heat index today is 109. I was just on the front porch--did not see a single bug or spider moving; the only sounds were cicadas and air conditioners. My parents didn't have to punish; my dad's lowered eyebrows were enough to make us stop whatever we were doing and no backtalk was allowed. Maybe punishment led you to make beautiful paintings--and humor led me to the sometimes darker side. Who knows?

    Skizo, thank you. I always enjoy visiting your blog--missed it when you were away for a while. Welcome back.

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  12. Hi Hallie, What an interesting, surreal image! Interesting story about the melting doll; I like how you've come to terms with the memory though!

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  13. Thanks Peggy. Now that I'm old, I suspect I'll be able to find a memory to match any painting (my paintings or others' paintings). Earlier I was looking through my work to see how many were of the "Paint first, think later" variety--about 30%. They're fun because you don't know where you're headed.

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  14. what an interesting blog post,Hallie. I love seeing the evolution of a painting, especially one where intuition, vague memories just outside focus, niggling feelings, a sudden insight, a flash of humour, or revisiting a nightmare are involved, lol. The process you are using was much loved by the Surrealists. I'm still trying to decide whether this depicts the 'conscious you' trying to get in (to your unconscious), or whether it's your unconscious burning its way out though your art. Whichever, a most arresting and disquieting painting is the result. Great stuff!

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  15. Hi Harry. This memory has always been easy to recall but hard to talk about so I suspect it burned its way into a painting. It's not a subject I would have chosen to paint but it's surprising that I didn't immediately recognize it. (I was elated whan the Aha moment arrived.) The tough part was deciding whether to tell the accompanying story--maybe I had a sub-conscious need to "get even."

    Your recent blog entry, Howl, was great stuff.

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  16. This is a frightening, and very interesting, painting. Because, of course, ultimately, it is true. Your story reminds me of the time that my father hid under my bed and poked the bottom of my mattress with his fist. He thought it was funny. I remember it to this day in a far different way.

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  17. Definitely an intriguing painting. I like it. And hearing your story gives me the idea that I could pay my dad back for all the cruel jokes he played on me growing up! (He was a serious prankster!)

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  18. Dan, I am laughing. Of course, I wasn't in the bed that got poked with a fist. You will always wonder how your father could possibly think you'd laugh.

    Hi Raena. Maybe no one gets through childhood without a trace of cruelty. I can imagine the wheels turning in your mind--pay back. Both my parents were funny; this prank, though, hurt.

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  19. OMG, Hallie, I am chilled by your painting and your narrative, but also I am also moved by how poignant and exquisitely beautiful it all is. My Mother had also suffered in her young life and unwittingly took it out on me. When I saw how lovely and conversely "grim" this is, I thought about painting some of my own (uh)...weird memories. It would be certain to be therapeutic. It is not an overstatement to say: THIS. IS. ART. (Thrilling Art)

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  20. Thank you, Celeste. I really debated about putting this on my blog but, evidently, everyone has a few bad memories. Little things make big impacts on young minds.

    Maybe these incidents drove us to drawing at an early age.

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  21. Momo Luna--thank you. I need to visit your three blogs later today.

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  22. Hallie...
    I am always so struck by what appears when I stop by and your post opens...

    this story... and you, as Indigomar says, are "kinda sideways" ...what a great and quirky view you offer...I am ever inspired!!!

    You don't need a calendar ;-)
    ...you embody the brilliance of 'Luna See'.

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  23. Donna, how nice of you. The planned paintings (before I was sidetracked with this one) are, I believe, right on track with "Luna See"--first research photos were July 11 & 12. I have to admit that actually being in synch with something large feels a bit scary (like a leap).

    I did fashion a journal--parts can be kept in different rooms; then put together. I have no concept of day/date unless it's a block on a calendar--I have to see the date in its own little square. I now have one with moons drawn on it. I always look forward to your posts.

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  24. Hallie, I am intriqued by this painting. Interesting that you started with an oval and this piece emerged. The comments expressed resonate with all of us. It was not the loss of the toy, but the loss of trust that hurt so much. Art is therapeutic. Your life experience has made you a very unique artist. I look forward to seeing each new piece.

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  25. Hi Mary. This is the way I usually doodle or play; I thought I'd try it with the canvas that was already on the easel. I tend to start with ovals--from there it can become a head or a flower (boxes are another story). Art has definitely played a part in keeping me semi-sane (who knows for how long?). It's fun.

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