Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Picture of Dorian Gray

"I knew that I had come face to face with some one whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself." ~ Oscar Wilde ~ The Picture of Dorian Gray

My solo show is scheduled to open at 33 Collective Gallery on September 18th. I have just a couple more wall holes to fill before then. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (36" x 28" charcoal on Mylar drafting film in vintage mirror frame) is another work for Black Butterfly: The Muse, my series inspired by the arts, with my subjects coming from the various artistic disciplines.

This is a portrait of artist/musician/model Ryan Dies. I met Ryan in an art jewelry shop, “1 ofmykind jewels” during a recent trip to the historic town of Galena, Illinois. Ryan was friendly and engaging right off. He was wearing a heavy beaded choker of his own design and looked so handsome I couldn’t resist asking him if I could take a few photographs to be used for a drawing. Ryan was happy to pose for the references, and the natural light was beautiful that day. Peacock feathers and ornate gilt mirror frames were part of the décor of the shop, so ideas for the drawing were formed almost immediately during the shoot. We had a nice conversation about the Chicago art scene and I talked with Ryan about a couple of his very good surrealist paintings that were on display. Later as I looked through the photos I decided Ryan would make the perfect model for a contemporary “Dorian Gray.”
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by the Irish poet Oscar Wilde. It is a story about a handsome young man who becomes enthralled with the idea of a new hedonism. He begins to indulge in every kind of pleasure, moral and immoral.

I used a compilation of several of the reference photos from Ryan’s shoot for the finished drawing. The peacock feathers seemed a natural symbol for Dorian’s pride in his physical appearance, the pride that made him wish to never grow old. I took liberties by changing Ryan’s existing forearm tattoo to one with a butterfly and poppy flowers – symbols for transformation and for “Dorian’s” travels to an opium den as a way to escape his crimes. I decided to add the skull ring on Dorian’s hand – a design by Jodie McGill of 1 ofmykind. I thought the skull was very appropriate as a reference to the plot of Wilde's novel. The butterflies in this work refer to Dorian’s muse: his own handsome mirror image; saved from corruption by the putrefying portrait that grows more horrifying with each sin committed by his increasingly evil character. I decided that I’d prefer to keep the decaying “picture” implied only, by using the ornate mirror frame to display this work.

Outside of physical beauty there is no comparing Ryan’s pleasant personality with the ugly character of Dorian Gray. He has been delightful to work with and I look forward to following this talented young man’s career.

Here's a fun and appropriate related video. Enjoy!


protocolinpractice said...

Another great picture - you're so very good with hands - I Stumbled the close-up of the arm with the tattoo - are you going to get one yourself for the opening?

Ashmodai said...

I already loved that on RedBubble. :)
(I'm MaureenMarlowe there)

Alice McMahon White said...

LOL - Karen, I actually have been lusting for some indelible ink since I started the series. Not sure I can justify it as anything more than an irrational flight of fancy at 50. ;)

Thanks for finding me Maureen! xx

Angela said...

I just re-read "A Portrait Of Dorian Gray" recently and was blown away by the powerful argument for hedonism. Of course, it doesn't pan out well....

Alice McMahon White said...

I'm re-reading it too. No, those things can get complicated in polite society. It used to happen quicker and more viciously in Oscar Wilde's day! Poor soul.