The Theater Of Memory

The most amazing feature of the human body is that basically all of our cells regenerate every seven years except for brain cells. So we are a totally new person on a cellular level but the persistence of our brain cells allows us to remember things as long as we live.

We are what we remember so the theme of this painting is an earliest childhood memory set on a stage - which is how our memory really works, subjectively composing and arranging snapshots of the past and filling in the details, like a tableau. In order to make this a representation of memory, I needed to have something from the present - the Philadelphia skyline.

Our dining room is set like a stage (of memory) teetering on a large rock in the Collingdale woods, which was three blocks from our house growing up, in the best year of all years from the 20th century, 1967. The rocky creek bed was taken from the creek in the woods. The theatre backdrop of the blue sky is a transitional element in this painting. The statue that is split in half is a bust of me with a walnut inserted as a metaphor for a brain. The purple curtains on the left and right edges depict theatre curtains.

I wanted to paint this in the great style of Dutch genre painting that depicted ordinary daily household events with great detail. I was influenced by Vermeer in using the drapery - curtains as a repoussoir, which he often used along with having a painting within a painting (the Van Gogh portrait of Armand Roulin which was also a print in my house since birth and probably the only painting that decorated any of our walls).