Cardboard Sky

Cardboard Sky, oil on linen, 16x20 in, © Jean Wilkey

I enjoy painting from observation. For me so much about art is really learning to see both with the internal and external eye.

One thing I’ve been focused on over the past few years is trying to get accurate color temperature and value in the work. That’s what really describes the quality of the light and the atmosphere of the space. That quality of light is one thing I focused on in this work.

Cardboard Sky is part of my sky painting series. In this one the sky is not background but on a piece of cardboard hanging into the picture plane.

Cardboard Sky, oil on linen, 16x20 in, © Jean Wilkey
Cardboard Sky, oil on linen, 16×20 in, © Jean Wilkey

The picture plane is our Renaissance window, our traditional rectangular view on the world. In dark homes, paintings cut a fictional window on to the world outside and made life less grim. I love it when things hang or poke into or out of the picture plane and my ‘hanging things’ and ‘poking things’ violate this traditional window.

We can imagine a landscape that extends beyond the edges of the painting as if we are seeing it through an actual window, but we become unsure when we see things hanging from some unknown place. In Cardboard Sky it is slightly more comprehensible since it is set in an interior space rather than an outdoor space as in Wall Flower.

Wall Flower, oil on panel, 24x18 in. © Jean Reece Wilkey
Wall Flower, oil on panel, 24×18 in. © Jean Wilkey

I first thought of objects jutting into the picture plane when I was thinking of vaudeville and the ‘hook’ which jerked poor performers off stage. Because so much of my work has to do with life as theater, as staging, this seemed a good device.

hookThen I encountered the work of the Spanish still life painter, Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1627), and I was sold. Of course hanging food had the practical aspect of keeping vermin away from it. 400 years later we have less reason to do that, so it is a strange sight and I love the strangeness of it.

Still Life, Juan Sanchez Cotan, ca 1602
Still Life, Juan Sanchez Cotan, c 1602

Cardboard Sky is really about balance. A small, deep red pomegranate is balanced by the larger, more muted objects on the left. It’s the way we can feel in the world sometimes – tiny in the face of giants – and yet we still shine in our own bright color.

This is one of the paintings I’ll be exhibiting in my upcoming solo show at Main Street Gallery in October. I’ll post details about the show closer to the opening date.