Work Sample

Oil, acrylic and Galkyd on three wood panels The convalescing Cedar of Lebanon in Recuperation simultaneously embodies a bleak realism and the romance of hope. It is a metaphor for the damage we do to ourselves and our attempts at restoration. Pale atmosphere alternates with raw flesh color, speaking of both cruelty and compassion. In 2006, I visited Isola Bella on Lago Maggiore in Italy. That summer, the gardens were strewn with damage from a freak tornado, including an uprooted ancient Cedar of Lebanon. Maintenance workers and gardeners had propped up this huge specimen with pulleys, slings, and guy ropes. Bandages wrapping limbs and sprinkler systems suspended in branches contributed further to its potential resuscitation. They are still waiting for the results. I photographed this poignant spectacle partly because it coincided with my prior research into landscapes of ruin, especially those devastated by war. That summer, the world watched as the 2006 Lebanon War decimated the country, all while the larger war in Iraq raged. The Lebanese town of Qana (or Cana) was attacked for the second time in a decade and suffered extraordinary numbers of civilian deaths. Two earlier paintings, Disguised Relief and Cana had already responded to Cana. One pertained to the biblical account of the water transformed into wine at a wedding, though in my case, the miracle is always deferred. The second used similar banquet table imagery to respond to the Qana massacres (though there is debate as to whether this is actually the biblical town of Cana). In either case, the romance of the wedding or the feast is marred by the lack of sustenance or the lifeless limbs beneath the table. Recuperation shifts to landscape imagery in extending the spirit of the Cana paintings. The Cedar of Lebanon stands wounded amidst larger catastrophe. Its practical and symbolic uses throughout history are intertwined with death and renewal. Its resin was used in Egyptian mummification and its sawdust found in pharaoh’s tombs. The Sumerian epic Gilgamesh treats cedar groves as dwellings of the gods. Moses ordered Jewish priests to use its bark to treat leprosy. Its wood was used to build King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and was once burned to announce the New Year. In Recuperation, the cedar’s grace, persistence and longevity offer hope, however futile or foolish.

Date: 04/02/2006
Dimensions: 80 x 109 inches