August 29, 2013

Boxed Paintings: "Red Yellow Blue and Black"

Red Yellow Blue and Black, egg tempera on calfskin parchment, box size 2 3/4 x 5 x 3/4 in.

A couple of weeks ago I had a little brain surge in the studio, an idea to paint the small square scraps of parchment left over from the panel making process; I wrote about it here. I happily began working on my first piece of what I'll call "Boxed Paintings". At the beginning of the process, I decided to use the three primary colors plus black as a way of unifying the piece, as well as sticking with simple geometric compositions, as in Russian Constructivism or De Stijl

Of course the box needed a lid, so I made one and painted it. The underside is painted yellow. The inside of the box is red and blue, so the lid has opposite colors, with the addition of black and yellow. 

Individual Paintings, one side; each ca. 1 1/4 in. square

The box is filled with ten tiny paintings, painted on both sides.

Individual Paintings, other side; each ca. 1 1/4 in. square

The two sides are related by composition and color because I wanted to use the translucency of the parchment.

With the light coming through, it is easy to see how one side converses with the other. You can also see, by comparing these images with the ones above, that there's no fixed top and bottom. This box of paintings is meant to be played with, the pieces picked up, moved around in the box, listening to the noise of them. They curl and bend because of the material, but in this instance it's a plus, adding variety and depth to the painted pieces. I have some ideas for future boxes and look forward to making more in the months ahead. 


  1. Very quilt like - love it!


    (I also love the PS - my garden has a large percent of my attention these days - my daughter says I'm in squirrel mode this time of year storing away nuts for the winter)

  2. I love these, Altoon!


  3. Thanks so much, Lisa and Dotty. I never know when I try something new how it will be received out in the world, so I'm glad you like this new project.

  4. i like the basic colors & design, and esp the material presence - and translucency - and that they're meant to be handled not put off-limits in a vitrine - though if it were exhibited that's how it would be,,,,

    1. Thank you, rappel, for the positive response. I remember how surprised I was when I could handle the Medieval manuscripts at the special collections library at Dartmouth; the egg tempera on parchment is pretty tough. But you're right, in a show it would have to be under a plexi box.