I had a show in Brussels during the time of our 40th birthdays, and we had a “40th Birthday Blowout” (that we are still paying for!) by traveling also to Amsterdam and Paris, where we stayed for a magical couple of days in the Proust Room of the Ritz Hotel. Proust would have his dinners supposedly in this small room above the restaurant, where he would also meet guests and hold soirees. We were enchanted by the place and its history, and Proust has long been important to us in his life and literature (I have created paintings of him and other works from this time, also in the Whitney installation). Proust’s famous Madeline’s were talismans back to synaesthetic memories that he so eloquently and geniusly wrote about in his experimental, non-linear narrative (that I hope the installation emulates), and his spirit seemed very alive in the context of the room itself. They had beautiful flowers in this elegantly appointed small single (but luxurious) room, and we spent much time there, ordering in Spaghetti Bolognese (that we shared) for our meals, etc. In our Ritz bathrobes, we chillaxed in luxury, and literally stopped and smelt the flowers, appreciating our life and feeling deep gratitude to what brought us to this point of our 40th birthdays.
I painted this work a couple of years later, when Andrew was extremely ill, trying to remember this high point in our life, and also painting this for my love for my husband, after being together for over twenty years. I also wanted to paint this for him, when he was able to get out of bed, so he could remember happy times in the hope that it would make him feel better. Sometimes the eloquencey of pithy epiphanies can be really true—stopping and smelling the roses of life is so important, and I choose paintings to meditate upon the subjects, like Proust’s Madeline’s, which are most important for me, and in many cases, make me feel good while painting them. Sometimes I think what you bring to the subject matter might be as important as the subject matter itself, especially true in painting, where thoughts and feelings unconsciously slip out as your brush is trying to consciously control the image. I’m hoping my love for Andrew and our life together is infused in this self reflexive moment—usually in movies when you have a scene with a mirror it is about self contemplation—and of course the mirror here emulates Andrew in his action, it’s also me looking into the mirror of our world together and everything that it means to me. Andrew is an artist, too, and we both love Van Gogh and Gauguin—narcissistically I think sometimes we could be reincarnations of this homosocial couple, and here hopefully the symbolic associations of color, etc., come out in this portrait of my husband, who I think looks a bit like a much more handsome version of Paul Gauguin!
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Paul Gauguin, Self-Portrait with Portrait of Bernard, 1888, Van Gogh Museum