We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare,
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love…”

― W.B. Yeats

My first pass at Margaret and Stanley (“Margaret McKittrick,” Abbott Thayer, oil on canvas, 1903 and “The Pianist (Stanley Addicks),” Thomas Eakins, oil on canvas, 1896) was megandstanaround 1970. I saw them paired up on facing pages of a booklet of works in a Midwestern art museum. I painted copies to fit in a pair of old gilded frames to hang in my parents’ living room, which they were for 20 yrs or so. They’ve hung in mine ever since.

I revisited Margaret and Stanley with a small ink drawing in 1986. Here the star-crossed couple are no longer paired off, I removed Stanley’s
head but gave Margaret a [NSFW] torso from a then contemporary realist whose name I forget. They are now more concept than couple, indifference and desire, respectively. A sign of the times.

margaret-stanley-and-me-1986This summer I finally saw the originals in the newish digs of the same museum. They are not side by side; dour, pessimistic Stanley in his plain frame is in one room and the bored, but content Margaret is in the next, overpowered, to say the least, by the gaudiest frame I’ve seen in a museum. One can see them both at one time but sadly they can’t see each other.

The image above was inspired by that frame. The image is a poster for an imaginary sci-fi/horror/romcom/anime flic: “Margaret & Stanley, Or the frame that ate Naptown” A postmodern kinda thing, too, context rules absolutely, where the frame is the villain in a post-apocalyptical dystopia where high [art] can be low and low can be high. But there is nothing high here, the image is unashamedly low. It’s an unironic paean to the art of the movie poster.

Also, this image fails to check yet another box on the PoMo list. Its homage is not the au courrant neo-appropriationism of PoMo art which seems to require not liking what is stolen; obviously I like the paintings. The illustration attempts to recreate of the painterly, yet realistic styes of the originals. Both painters created illusions that paint was something else, but they both let paint be paint as well. This synthesis of content and method is a good thing, but one not highly valued these days.

Also as a would-be movie poster—a reconstruction of a generally narrative film—it would require a representation of that narrative. And that is not the pairing off of the 1970 project, the desire v. indifference of the ’86 one, nor is it the reality of the real museum hangings. In this narrative Margaret has escaped her previous contexts of being objectified and desired. Here she persists but ephemerally as a just few quickly drawn lines. Stanley, however, has not escaped. He is still trapped solidly in his earlier contexts; he remains an object in a frame and an objectfier trying to enframe.

Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” —Dr. Seuss