Professional Nonproducer, 2011
Interior house paint
4 x 6 inches
This piece draws some significance from the fact that it was the only thing I ever "made" in my MFA art studio, and even then, that description is somewhat erroneous. In fact, I hired a muralist to produce this very small image, using three types of Farrow & Ball wall paint. Each type was made to imitate a Victorian-era paint mixed with "lampblack": the soot resulting from the burning of oil lamps. These contemporary, water-based paints thus assume wholly simulacral relationships to those that once materially comprised a byproduct of the generation of light.
One of the wall paints goes a step further. Named "Lamp Room Gray," it imitates the color of a room in Calke Abbey, Derbyshire where oil lamps were stored. The room's walls have grown discolored by the trimming of wicks and the burning of lamps. This contemporary paint attempts to match not the discoloration but the original, obscured shade.
The image is a copy of an 1860 painting by Franz Von Lenbach of a sleeping shepherd boy. Lenbach was considered a realist, in the line of Courbet and Millet, though this painting appears to traffic in neoclassical affect. Beyond evident social considerations, it betrays a paradox at the heart of the pastoral genre: painters laboring away to invent images of leisure, rest – the absence of work – for a cosmopolitan viewership.