Peripheral Person, watercolor, 22″ x 30″, 2018.
Who gets to be memorable? The hazy featureless woman in this large watercolor is a stand out because she wears red; but also because she is thin, blonde and fair. She is memorable only in the capacity of a peripheral person due to her being deemed a possible benchmark. I don’t want to really know her because I might actually like her. This would subvert her purpose in my reality. She exists to support my personal narrative by serving as a model of comparison.
She is clearly not me.
The painting of her, appearing as a seemingly ethereal being in the midst of an urban brick and window world, would give her supernaturality were it not for her featureless depiction. The pillowy softness of her rendering is in direct contrast to the hard rusty industrial architecture that heavily surrounds her. All but engulfed, she leans against a stone bridge and surveys something that is distant and out of the picture. It is not important; nor is she. Indeed, she is merely a vapor expressing the essence of a woman. Whatever it is that she has or represents, it has been given and applied to her.
The peripheral people are ornamental- furniture at best- in the reality of an individual and their personal narrative. The memory of them eventually dissipates with their absence. Initially missed yet easily replaced.
Peripheral people create no void.
What, perhaps, is even more interesting in this painting are the windows. Each is a portal through which ongoing stories are unfolding. More peripheral people- or at least evidence of them. The unusual curtains in one window; the shadowy figure peering out of another; all serve to color and populate an individual experience of this moment. The buildings and windows are clearly defined, unlike the woman. Her proximity makes it uncomfortable to enjoy the luxury of visually experiencing her; but the buildings are distant and their windows, most assuredly portals, also serve as protective barriers generously offering the option of looking.
Ironically, the viewer is also the viewed. While considering the windows- only one can be studied at a time; the possibility exists that multiple windows contain viewers who are also looking. The subjects of this painting- of which there are many- are at once subjective persons and peripheral persons.
The realization and emergent paradox, that we are all peripheral people in someone’s narrative, must give pause of thought to consider both our individual significance and insignificance. The nebulous woman in the foreground of this painting belies its point and simultaneously generates off-topic questions. Who is she? What is her significance? What emotion or backstory precipitated the effacing of her features? Although detail is neglected, she receives the most attention. She is a superficial distraction- a center obstacle that must be surmounted in order to absorb the layered and deeper meanings of this imagery.
Ode to a Peripheral Person
Woman in red coloring my thought
I only notice what you have- that I have not.
When my retina ceases to receive your paint
the memory of you will likewise grow faint.
I’ll not wax blue as the canvas clears
for new vibrant color always appears.
-Margaret Louise Crowley