Monday, May 20, 2013

The Mechanics of Memory

The Mechanics of Memory by Becky Hendrick, acrylic and alkyd on canvas; 45” x 45”
Artist and writer Becky Hendrick painted a series on the Holocaust which she later wrote about in a book called Mechanics of Memory. Becky is a fine artist and a fine writer and, coincidentally, related to me. Here's the opening of her essay on the Holocaust paintings:

"During the 1980s, the art world boomed. It was Big Business, painting was hot, and we painters got spoiled by attention and sales. So when a collector asked to meet me and see my paintings, I was ready and eager to discuss the work: its intentions, the formal choices, the imagery and, most important to me, the content; relationships – causal, oppositional, complementary, paradoxical; that sort of thing. The themes I was dealing with were complex and consuming: choice, chance and consequence; the physics of change.
           'When the potential patron walked into the gallery, she was a living, breathing cliché; holding a fabric swatch, she wanted a painting to ‘match.’ I was probably polite and I probably did whatever was necessary to make a sale; my art may be oh-so-serious, but I am human. Privately, though, I still had enough liberal zeal to take offense at the contradiction between the content of my paintings and the spirit in which they were being bought and sold.
         " For a few years I had been considering the nature of pictures: whether, in an image-saturated culture, pictures still had the power to “work,” and if so, how. I began a series of Living Room Paintings in response to those people who shopped the contemporary galleries for their interior decoration needs. These paintings combined images of families displaced from their homes by war, poverty, or climate --- people with no living room --- with borders of decorative fabrics. My thinking was that if one has several thousand dollars to spend on something to hang over a sofa, that thing should be a constant reminder that owning it is a privilege!"

Please click on The Mechanics of Memory to read the complete essay and see more of her paintings.

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