Keith Mayerson

Pet Paintings

The small pet paintings included in this show are personal works that my husband and I have coveted for years. They were from my second solo show in LA, way back in the early 90's. Entitled "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell!" the exhibition had seven different narratives, all mixed together in the installation, with these paintings as one of the series. They were from images that my friend Renee Edgington had been bequeathed from a good friend of hers who was a gay man who had collected them from the Fotomat lab where he worked—making duplicates of all the photos that included pets! This man had passed from AIDS related causes during the times of that horrible time, and I thought in many ways the pets acted as avatars for how he may be feeling, anthropomorphized avatars of gay angst—pets are notorious avatars for their owners, and here I felt I had a good basis for allegory. I painted the pictures the exact dimensions of the original photos, blissing out the background with expressive colors, and allowing myself to ruminate upon my own emotions using the pets as talismans for expressionist energy. At the time figurative painting was outrĂ©, unless it was photorealistic or John Corrin or conceptually based, but here I thought I could actually have edification in meditation of painting, hopefully what is painterly in the image also transcends its obvious subject matter. These works were important departures for me, where I realized I could paint from "my soul" rather than appropriate styles and artistic languages to get my content across—the closest I could get at the time to "pure painting". The larger works stemmed from this, where I really had fun, despite the inherent subject matter, to allow myself to be free to paint—one of these paintings hung in a contemporary painting gallery at LACMA in the late 90's for several years, another is owned by SF MOMA, and I'm so proud to be able to show these now in this context, hopefully they were ahead of their time but also continuing the long tradition of pets in paintings that have deeper content than just memorializing our furry members of our family.