Threnody Process


"Although this vertical form had originated in my work more than fifteen years before as an earth goddess, it soon appropriated to itself aspects of the male form as well. This dualism took on still other aspects: the form became more interlocked with the void, the dark flowed into the light, line into pattern, soft shape into hard. In short, it became an ambivalent figure, a union of opposites evoking the "primordial archetype" about which Eric Neumann wrote: "Its ambivalence is characteristic of the original situation of the unconscious . . . early man experienced this paradoxical simultaneity of good and evil, friendly and terrible in the godhead as a unity..I chose to return to that early moment when man's experience of totality preceded his experience of particulars."  -C.G. 1975

"In the development of the work I was assisted by a model of the room scaled one inch to the foot. Various color harmonies were studied in this model. I made several hundred color studies and over one hundred figure studies. The first studies were small; they increased in size. The final studies were about five feet high; from these I worked directly on the final panels. The study period occupied me for about eighteen months. Many logistical problems had to be faced. I had a 20' x 20' easel constructed. It had a chain hoist so that it could be raised to the vertical position, but I painted with the easel at a slight angle to the floor, raised at the back about eight feet from floor level. At the base of the easel I placed a twenty-foot ladder from the top of which I would get a good perspective of the work in progress. I used very large brushes, sometimes janitors' pushbrooms, and employed infants' swimming pools to mix my colors. I used polymer acrylic pigments in very liquid fashion, and I was able to stand directly on the canvas (stretched over plywood) so I could easily control the paint. The final panels were painted quickly, in situ, in two and a half months. Although I made many corrections during the next months after the paintings were stretched and mounted on the walls, the final work had to be accomplished quickly in order to achieve the element of spontaneity."  -C.G. 1975    

"I have sought to evoke this experience of totality by filling the four walls with a continuity of color, joining the fourteen figures in a dance, a dance of death and life around the room. I have hoped that the students of the College at Purchase, whose minds (like those of all students) are crammed with imposed knowledge, could enter this room and possess themselves of their own thoughts, could react to the paintings as an environment for meditation, where there could be both influx and efflux. "The deepest level of communication is not communication but communion" (Thomas Merton). In such a meditative context, I thought of the room as a cathedral: the central axis as the nave, the two doors corresponding to transepts, the black wall as the west wall (it is actually east), and the red wall as the apse the source of light and hope."  -C.G. 1975

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Copyright © Cleve Gray 2000. All rights.