2. The Dancers

Dancers, triptych, chalk pastels on paper

The Dancers, triptych, chalk pastels on paper

The Dancers was my first serious work, the first piece that wasn’t a realistic depiction of flowers or a landscape.  My technique on this piece reflects where I was less than a year after I’d begun painting.  The piece is compositionally simple, despite its size and the added wrinkle of being triptych.  Yet, when I show this piece to visitors, I find myself narrating a long story of the piece’s symbolism.

Right panel (detail)

Right panel (detail)

The piece began as an homage to the spirit of dance, from a photo of a friend’s garden sculpture.  In our culture and time, the idea of dancing as a community is regarded as rather old fashioned.  One of the lessons I learned on my around the world travels is that other cultures still dance together – I have fond memories of communal dancing from Greece and Indonesia.

I like the idea that when we dance as a group, we (gladly) surrender some of our own personal identity.  And so none of the dancers have faces.  Each has expression, movement and emotion.  But there are no features by which one dancer can say “This is me.”

I also wanted to capture the out-of-body sensations I experience when I dance (and I assume, we all do, who really knows).  It is the sensation where we observe ourselves in the midst of dance, as if we were suspended above the group as an outside spectator.  The woman in the red panel appears to look at herself (at the top center of the piece).  The man in the center inset appears to be stationary, completely at rest, while he observes himself mid-swirl, within the group.

When we dance in community, I believe that group itself assumes an identity completely independent of its participants.  So I have added facial features – not to an individual dancer, but to the group as a whole.  The fiddle-head  inserted beneath the woman’s arm in the left panel becomes an eye; the angle of her leg becomes an open mouth; a darkened yoni at lower center.  I accentuated the illusion that the group itself appears to be made of living bone.

Even though the organism of the dance ceases to exist at the moment the group disband, it is a living, breathing being nonetheless.


~ by Delfino on 2008/10/19.

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