THOMAS D. EDWARDS
Last Leaf Panels and Studies
Jane Haslem Gallery
I found four identical door panels (80" x 30") in a house built in 1950 that was being remodeled. The doors were available. They were perfectly flat and very light. Perfect for paintings that wouldn't warp. I sanded the panels and prepared them with a glue ground, primer, and gesso.
The first set of studies are four panels that are each 16" x 6". I hinged them so the two side panels folded over the inner pair makes a painting with four panels with six sides, yielding two drawings, one 16" x 12" (closed) and one 16" x 24" (open). The idea was a dark, nocturnal, space just trees and rocks like I see when I walk in the woods on a full moon night. Light used to reveal forms in the darkness. The Light being separated from the Darkness.
The Last Leaf panels and the studies that preceded them describe the boundary between light and darkness and similar edges that separate the mysteries that surround us. I have tried to create a space that puts the viewer in an inaccessible place and time.
The set of panels for the second study was of the four open panels also each 16" x 6". This study set up a closed space made up of trees, fallen trees (post hurricane Irene), and branches creating an intricate landscape of barren trees. A space that is difficult for the viewer to enter. The viewer has to shift into the dream vision to enter this space. That was the physiological space I was looking for.
The third study is a larger group from four 24" x 9" copper plates that were etched and printed. The composition is based on space developed in study two. The prints were mounted on panels and prepared with a glue ground and drawn over with oil paint and prismacolor pencil. Much of the etching is still apparent. I wanted to include seven angels searching for the last leaf. The last leaf is my 95-year-old father who was suffering with Alzheimer's.
The fourth study was the drawing that was used as the basis for the large composition on the full size door panels. The red pencil grid was used to transfer the composition to the large prepared door panels.
The large panels were set in the closed position for the start of the Last Leaf. The closed "cover" drawing was drawn with prismacolor pencil in layers of wet gesso. The composition of limbs and branches was seen through the window of my second floor studio. The elimination of the ground plane puts the viewer in the same space as the seven angels (butterflies and moths) as they arrive to witness the fall (death) of the last leaf (my father). The angels are seen in color and represent the spiritual world whereas the trees are seen in monochrome representing the physical world. The leaf (soul) has fallen and is seen in color as it leaves the physical world. (The idea for using butterflies and moths for angels occurred to me when I was looking at a Fra Angelico Annunciation while in Florence at the monastery of San Marco. The wings of the angel reminded me of butterfly wings. Besides, the idea of wings attached to the backs of humans has never connected my imagination to the spiritual realm. I have had many dreams where a moth has taken me through the gates of the other world)
The open four panels reveal the world of winter and death with the promise of rebirth seen in the lower right corner, in form of a green leaf about to open.
The open and closed position of the painting, creating two separate but physically connected and related works comes from viewing similar works (altar pieces) I've seen, and in particular the Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald, that is composed of multiple panels that were opened and closed to reveal different paintings for viewing on special days.
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