Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chlora's Train of Thought

Part Two of this large ensemble piece, "Presence is Fire", is a toy "wooden" train. I've got a cute little vintage Fisher Price "Huffy Puffy" train that served as a model. But it had only 3 cars, and it took me awhile to figure out just what cars were needed...all this harkens back to Christmas in the early 60's when I was obsessed with fancy electric trains. But Santa brought a plain wind-up train, no frills attached. Anyhow, Chlora fared even worse, receiving a wooden train. In the December story when she is asked to put more wood on the fire, in goes her train....along with some other items, as you will soon see.
The train ends up having four adaptations painted on it. At first I thought it might be a death train, as in we-are-all-on-this-train-relentlessly-going-one-direction. I explored Anselm Kiefer's huge paintings of train tracks to Auschwitz. Then I came upon the lyrics of the old song "People Get Ready a Train's a-Coming", by Curtis Mayfield, I realized it was a hope train from the civil rights era. The four paintings chosen represent the notion of "presence and absence"--two of each. On the Little Engine that Could, we have Monet's Gare St. Lazare, the version in the Art Inst. of Chicago. Next, I looked for Jesus' cry on the cross, "Father why have you forsaken me?" and came up with a gripping "Golgotha" by Munch, where people are abandoning him.

.Third, on the dining car is the unmatched image of loneliness, Degas' "Absinthe Drinker". I was tempted to construct a small Venus de Milo to put in the absence car, she with the missing head and limbs.

The Little Red Caboose brings up the rear of the chariot of fire with a woodcut from the Nuremburg Chronicle of Elijah and Elisha. I first discovered this image when thinking about the mantel over the fireplace...and it linked to mantle, ie. the cloak, that Elijah hands off to his successor. Different spelling, I discovered! And 19th c. trains were dubbed chariots of fire, of course. Furthermore, my good friend Jeff Smith turns out to have written a book about Nuremburg, says there are six copies here in the HRC, and he brought over a facsimile for me to work from. So on the engine and caboose we have Presence, bracketing the absence in between. Since trains are all too metaphorical, it is all derailed, a real train wreck. "Chlora's Train of Thought".

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