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Omphaloskepsis Blog

Can you hear this painting?

Feb 21, 2013

The opening on February 15th at Aljoya was very well attended and quite lovely. Holly's work paired with the Non-ordinary Reality painting series, the two bodies of artwork play so well together. I very much enjoy Holly's work and am drawn to the chunky red ropes she uses. I would like to continue to show the work together in other venues.

We both gave very brief artist talks as precursers to whats to come on March 13th at 7:30. Below is my talk

 JuneHolly.jpg June Sekeguchi (curator) and Holly Ballard Martz

When I started this series in 2008 I had no idea where it was going to lead me. A simple curiosity about how light bends in water and the desire to learn to see that with my hands evolved into getting in the water with my children and devolved into the disembodied figures you see here. Since that time the paintings have shown locally, in New York, Ecuador, and London. (They’re for sale and looking for good homes.)

Paying attention to my environment while determining the best size for these works led me to the neurological discovery that these paintings hold. When I projected my photo research against the wall, my environment grew quiet, all the sounds around me became muffled, the tractor, the roosters, the lawnmowers and chainsaw and airplane. It was as if, in my living room, I was underwater with the images.

I needed to know if this was an isolated phenomena, if it was just me, or if this was the effect of something neurological at work. I called in my family members to test it out on them. “Tell me what happens to you when I project these images on the wall?” I asked. The same results.

I began doing research…an ongoing journey for me. The closest thing I’ve been able to piece together is something I found called Assimilation Paradox: that’s when we use existing stereotypes to make sense of a new situation. In this case the existing stereotype is what it feels and sounds like to be underwater. When the large image was projected on the wall our brains told us, “ok, you’re under water now.” And some of the things our senses knew about being underwater kicked in.

I also read research that disputed the theories brain localization. It said that sound can light up the visual cortex, and smell and visuals can light up the auditory cortex (and so on). Our brains are polysensory.

I wondered if this effect could be replicated in paint? Could I paint paintings that have an auditory effect?

Most of the paintings in this series, what’s not shown here, are large. If I had a bigger studio, I’d paint them larger. They’re that way because the viewer must get in the water with the subject, be completely immersed to have the opportunity to have a full experience.

The subject of the painting is unseen, the person in the water doing the looking. The titles come from lines of poetry and function on two levels, as what you are looking at and also as the liminal thoughts of the submerged subject.

poetryReading.jpg The poetry reading

I’d like to read a poem to you.

Don't Tell Anyone by Tony Hoagland

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day. 

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if??I should consider myself

personally the cause of ?her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy 
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down again into the cold wet mask of? the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,

politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak

of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;

that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss

of? your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one PM, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;

—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.

First published by The Poetry Foundation

Thank you Tony Hoagland

Category: Show
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