Reality Check - Contemporary American Trompe L'Oeil
Oil on panel, 13½ x 10½ inches
Collection of David H. Hickman
Mort's Karnac is an example of a highly personal type of trompe l'oeil assemblage that combines objects or artifacts evoking the persona of a particular individual.
The artist's remarks:
"Karnac pays homage to Russell W. Porter, an acclaimed turn-of-the 20th-century artist, arctic explorer, and 'Father of Amateur Astronomy,' known as the 'Leonardo of New England.' Porter was gifted the 3600-year-old bronze cat from Karnac, Egypt, by one of his many admirers. His daughter left it to me in her estate. My personal passion for the night sky inspired this tribute, which also includes other Porter treasures, such as a handmade lens, his drafting tools and paint tubes. Fieldstone Castle - my home and studio in Port Clyde, Maine - was part of Porter's summer homestead, and I have collected Porter memorabilia for many years.
"Combining the objects, their variations in patina and texture and the message each held were a source of fascination. The well-worn cat stimulates the eye, contrasting with the smoother, warm red wood backdrop. The masking triangle behind the proud feline is reminiscent of the great pyramids of Giza, framing a moth symbolic of those who brave the night in search of celestial wonders. The small section of a star chart illustrates the well-known constellation of Orion, the hunter. Tucked behind the wing of the moth is a key peculiarly pulled off plumb, a tip of the hat to Albert Einstein's notion of gravity as a curvature of space-time itself. A small contemporary cutout of the planet Mars helps date the piece to our time in history. The cat wares a tag with the digits 137, perhaps the most famous number in mathematics. The white satin ribbon connects the star chart with the unseen world behind Porter's case only to reappear and disappear, suggesting one model for a universe that finite but unbounded, folding back in on itself.
"Embarking on this trompe l'oeil journey I found this composition became its own world to explore. As the painting evolved, it continued to reveal more and more to see, understand, and appreciate. This consuming endeavor challenged and drove me to see just how far I could refine the image further and further, nearing the microscopic universe at hand."
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