Thursday, June 3, 2010

The background

The last phase of the painting has begun. The background (scenes outside the diner window) will be filled in by the end of next week barring any unforeseen difficulties (there better not be any). This is the part that was subliminally bothering the hell out of me. My initial intention was to fill in the entire pane of theoretical glass with imagery, but spatially, it did little to address the issue of distance within the piece and visually stop the painting at a specific point. The fix (I think) is a simple one. Add light colored valances to the windows. They will serve to frame the window from the inside and give a better sense of distance.

The other issue that literally kept me up a couple nights was exactly what was the viewer supposed to see outside the window. I was working on the assumption that the eight frames would represent various aspects of black life throughout history, but that seemed a bit unhinged and ultimately irrelevant to the surroundings and would end up as meaningless (and forgettable) filler. I suddenly remembered that the SOG gave me an Excel worksheet that contained not only the names of prospective participants, but significant events to the state's black history. Since this piece is based on one of those events (the Woolworth sit-in) why not kill the flock with one stone and use the background to highlight the remaining events? Eh - problem solved.

The first panel background shows Dr. King and Ralph Abernathy in Greensboro two weeks after the sit-in's began. I also included one of the signs that graced the window when Woolworth decided to close the counter. As planned, all of the backgrounds will be painted in a single color (a faint bluish gray) to represent the past and honor the non-compete clause in my head.

The next panel shows a scene from the Somerset Plantation in Creswell, NC. I decided to place that one behind the two anonymous slaves as well as Harriet Jacob who escaped from a plantation and hid in an attic for years to remain close to her enslaved son until escaping to the north. If I am not mistaken, the two buildings to the left were the plantation hospital which seems fitting because two doctors, Dr. Milton Quigless and Dr. Charles Watts, a surgeon, are standing in front of them. No, I didn't plan it that way but I will have no problem lying and saying that I did. 

Somerset Place Plantation

The Somerset Place Plantation was North Carolina's third largest by 1860. In 1969, Somerset Place was designated as a State Historic Site. In 1986, descendants of African American slaves from Somerset Place planned a gathering known as Somerset Homecoming. The event was inspired by a book titled "Somerset Homecoming" written by the property's current manager Dorothy Spruill Redford. Redford spent 10 years tracing the lives of Somerset Plantation's 300 slaves and organized more than 3,000 descendants nationwide to attend a homecoming at the plantation. 

I'm pushing to have two more backgrounds finished by the end of the week. 

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