|study for Thanksgiving (2003)|
|bizarre anatomy example 1, |
Pink Tree, by John Currin
|bizarre anatomy example 2,|
by Lisa Yuskavage
Like the Renaissance convention of the as-if-illuminated-from-within figures arranged in a cascading pyramid against a darker ground, the turkey, grapes, fading roses, and slightly over-the-hill onion point directly to another tradition—the primarily Dutch still life paintings known as vanitas (some posts on three such paintings can be found here, here, and here). As a vanitas, then, Currin is calling attention to life and death, and to the way the latter always, eventually, trumps the former. But, this being John Currin, there's a third metaphorical element at play as well and that, of course, is sex. Note, for instance, the small dark grape (and its position) held by the oldest figure* wearing that ratty old sweatshirt (which, in my view, kind of makes this painting—the sweatshirt, I mean; think how sterile, how laminated, everything would be without it... but with it, a mood of human tenderness pervades the scene, a homely, awkward, quietly sweet familiarity).
Certainly the sexual innuendos of the middle figure's open mouth and the position of the phallic baguette end (or yam??) that she holds in one elegant, elongated hand (a la Cranach) pale in the face of this turkey. Whatever pornographic impulses inform this scene are concentrated in that bird's ripe to bursting flesh, its rippling muscles and flirtatiously pink wing tips. This isn't food, it's a body. A fourth personality—the calmest, most centered one in the painting. Dead? Yes. But also curiously liberated. Carefree might be the word.
* remind you of anything?
|John Currin with wife/muse Racheal Feinstein|