Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bewildered: the paintings of Anne Harris

                                                                   The Red Robe by Anne Harris

Anne Harris paints portraits of what we look like in the morning, bedraggled, half conscious, before the beauty has been reapplied – the beauty not only of make-up, but of zest and faith in material culture. In a bed robe as if going for the newspaper, our mother or wife or neighbor is confronted by an empathetic look, horrified for a moment by not the absence of a mask, but the presence of her native mortality.

The dishevelment need not be strictly early a.m. It can be a return from a party, in front of the mirror before going out, dressed up but not up to it. It is the moment inside the pit of the stomach, subjective, aware, undisguisable.

These are not simply cultish or ironic portraits. They are not the fetish of our feared inner state of bewilderment. They are the “if you, then also I may be so vulnerable.” This is the way they work on us, through empathy for the subject, which boomerangs to ourselves. The work of this circuit is enabled by how well they are painted, how deep their expressive humanity, even how horrified their burlesque of self-recognition is.

They go where theatre, or great cinematic moments can go, directly past the critical to the felt sympathy of an inner secret. The secret revealed is that we are humanly disappointed, with ourselves, perhaps with our world. You could place these figures in a Beckett play – at the moment the light goes up, and the protagonist confronts us with all that in the end matters, our going out in the dishevelment of bedclothes, of tossing in the stream of time alongside fallen dreams and the dread of what is next.

John Sevcik

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