No Parking Zone, Oil on Panel, 2009
“No Parking Zone”, Oil on Panel, 17.25″ x 13.75″ (43.8 x 34.9 cm), 2009
Not long ago I was contacted on Myspace by a chihuahua. I no longer recall this dog’s name, but just to protect the “innocent” I’ll call him “Chumley - Chumley the Chihuahua”. Chumley’s was one of these profiles that is set up by a pet owner so that they can go around pretending that they are their pet. So it was that a lady pretending to be little Chumley wrote to me to inquire if I could be commissioned to paint his portrait. Of course I like dogs, and I even like people who pretend to be dogs, however I am reticent to do commissions these days, and even more reticent to do a commissioned portrait of a chihuahua. Not wishing to disappoint, nor wishing to turn down paying work, I wracked my brain for a compromise. It was not easy – I mulled this over for days: How could I stoop to doing a portrait of a chihuahua and still retain my dignity as an artist?
Eventually I seized upon a solution - I would put Chumley in his proper place. I wrote back to him and explained as politely as I could that I could only include him as a detail, as a minor character added as a sort of “cameo” within the painting. Chumley might (for example) sit on the lap of a lingerie clad gorgon or lift his leg on the severed head of John the Baptist or add some other weird and witty touch in any number of ways to a larger composition with loftier themes. I asked Chumley to understand that I only portray in my paintings those things that are part of the stream of symbols that course through my imagination. I further explained that, with all due respect to the chihuahua breed, a breed that I find agreeable despite it’s diminutive size (generally speaking I only like large dogs), the chihuahua is simply not a part of the bestiary of my imagination, and so I would be very grateful if he would understand this and settle amicably for the sort of cameo appearance in one of my paintings that I was offering. He never replied. I can only guess that Chumley was too insulted by my belittling offer too dignify it with a response.
By the Fall of last year I had mostly forgotten about this seemingly minor encounter. I was busy working simultaneously on the painting above as well as Traffic Jam. In the course of making a painting I try to avoid thinking about what the meaning of the images might be. That sounds peculiar to those who do not create things from their imaginations, but those who do will sympathize since they know that assigning meaning to things prematurely simply stifles the natural efflorescence of the imagination. Yet sometimes as a work progresses a meaning, a resemblance, a reference, or a metaphor becomes very clear and the artist cannot deny it.
Such was the case with “No Parking Zone”. At a certain point it was undeniable that I had painted a portrait of myself as an androgynous human chihuahua of gargantuan scale. A horrifying realization. Moreover, in this self-portrait, I was aesphyxiated. Aesphyxiated by what? Am I not here suffocated by my own arrogance, strangled by that self-important spirit that cannot swallow its pride so as to do whatever is asked of it?
Had this nasty little Chumley Chihuahua come nipping at the shadows of my mind and cleverly chased them, as he might chase rats from a sewer, into the light and onto my painting? Had he in a perverted way, assumed the place in my painting that he had desired? Uggh! Approached from all directions the matter is psychologically sordid. It is a transgression, a usurpation, it is something that is where it should not be – a violation. Even so, it is but a small infraction . . . like parking in a “No Parking Zone”, and I afterall have always been a scofflaw . . .
Details from the painting (click on thumbnails for slideshow):
“Series I” prints are made by the artist, the signed and numbered prints are limited to 100.
The print area of “No Parking Zone” measures 12.1″ v x 15.18 h” (30.5 x 46 cm). The original painting was executed in oil upon a panel and measures 17.25″ x 13.75″ (43.8 x 34.9 cm). The print is 88% of the original size.
For technical details of the print click here