the boy who touched

oil on paper
18" x 48"

The Strangest Painting I Ever Made

"the boy who touched" is the strangest painting I ever made. And I've made some strange paintings. Though a painting of a boy petting a dolphin might be construed as unusual. I don't think that it's the imagery that makes this painting strange. In many ways what's happening in the painting is mundane, or to be more accurate, matter of fact.

The painting contains a lot of elements I was using at the time. A figure sits in a landscape, there's dramatic foreshortening, and you'll find little insects caught up in their own drama if you look close enough. Water figured prominently in my work at the time. Which is ironic considering I was living in a desert. I like how water has three properties in conflict with each other: it has a surface, it's transparent, and it reflects like a mirror. There's a certain sense of chaos in these visual conflicts that adds to the tension in the painting. 

Speaking of tension... what about touch. There's a moment before a hand touches something or someone. Anticipation builds up as fingers approach. We often have a sense of what something will feel like, but do we ever know for sure. Perhaps a surface will feel slightly different than what we expect, skin may be warm or cold, moist or dry. When we get closer we see more information, perhaps more detail or a different point of view. With touch we've already broken into personal space. We might not be able to snatch back our hand in time. Intimacy has already occurred. 

Look at those teeth! Of course dolphins have teeth. Is that a smile?

You can see right through the boy's shoulder. He's like a water nymph or some kind of air elemental? Air touching wet skin. It's like a fading memory that's been captured but with some of the details scrambled up.

To tell you the truth I wasn't sure I had a color image of this painting. I came across some black and white snapshots of some work and this was in one of them. Thankfully, I was stricter back then about documenting my work. Nothing left the studio without documentation, thanks to friend and photographer  Keith Tishken. I'm glad I found a slide of it. Especially since I have no idea where the painting is or whether it still exists. Perhaps it's found a home with someone who appreciates strange paintings.