Halloween, All Hallows E’en 2019
These works – all but one in the artist’s own collection – are from Reality Reassembled: the Halloween Paintings of Peter Paone (American, born 1936)
at the Brandywine River Museum, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania until November 3, 2019.
Peter Paone, a Philadelphian from birth, works in a figurative tradition rich in symbolism, colour and brushwork connecting our every day and our imaginal lives.
The artist portrays Halloween as the occasion for the expression of our wished selves, the alternative selves we hold in check.
As is known, the blessedness of the day has its roots in pagan and Christian practices which relate – when the harvest is in – to the appreciation of the cycle of life and death of plants and of humans.
Pumpkin discovered by the Philadelphian who posts poems on her front door only to be asked to increase the posting frequency
A simulacrum of death remains a focus at Halloween (death being a taboo subject).
This focus has been boosted by the overlapping celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead which begins on Halloween.
Marker of the Day of the Dead. Philadelphia 2019
Death erupts in the myriad grinning skeletons on our streets at Halloween.
Halloween posing of a skeleton. Philadelphia 2019
Peter Paone’s Halloween is in earnest.
His Merlin is resting. The Celtic guardian wizard is a master of transformation. He is resting now that, on Halloween, humans are themselves transformed.
Merlin, acrylic on panel, 2019, and detail
The artist notes that human consciousness presents sometimes as multiple personalities. In a painting called Trans, which I was unable to reproduce, the artist made the same point about the trans-gender process.
Multiple Personalities, 2017, acrylic on panel, and detail
Halloween, for Peter Paone, is the freedom from norms which ordinarily govern the expression of the self. This is demonstrated in the lush colours and masks and costumes that are worn.
Demonstrated also by the psychological distance between characters in many of these tableaux. The ego being a solitary actor.
The repetitive, hypnotic patterns in these images hold the Halloween delirium in check. Prominent among them is the circle and the checker/chess board pattern.
Because as approaching mad as Halloween may look, it has its roots deep in the mind’s rationalizing impulses towards wholeness and the order of our nature rather than the requirements of our societies.
The melancholy of eyes and the hovering haze of some of these tableaux testify to the tentativeness of these transformations;
and the understanding that the Halloween transformation lasts only a day and a night.
Nightfall, wizards, crones, candles, pumpkins, masks, ritual headwear, outsize buttons, horns, bats, and cats and their whiskers become enabling media.
Loveliest ribbons play a role for their functional, decorative and connecting properties.
For one day, the spirit of children become ruling enablers and guides.
For which service they are rewarded with sweet things for their native aptitude for the expression of our multiply segmented human consciousness.
And then there is the multiplication of hands for their power to transmit, connect, shape, point.
A counter-balance for psychological distance and an acknowledgment of the this-and-also-that, the nevertheless, notwithstanding, wherefore and therefore of our species.
The clown, meanwhile, has been abused.
He has been punched.
And the cut-outs of his hat and clothing and left ear indicate that he is receding into the background on Halloween.
As to why this abuse?
Perhaps because the clown is the only Halloween creature who has license to remain with us throughout the year:
wearing Halloween costumes and demonstrating by the enormous range of his facial expressions and body movements
his mastery of the means of Halloween’s primary goal: human transformation to the end of psychological integrity and its expression in our everyday lives.
Maybe someone was jealous of him this day.
Maybe he should have shown a reticence, a delicacy, a restraint on this day and let others have the field. Like Merlin the Wise who is resting quietly.
The gods must have agreed because they have come for him and our surrounding dark matter is clearly eating the clown alive this Halloween.
Punched Clown, 2018, acrylic on canvas; and detail
Powerful spotlights in the gallery have distorted some of the images shown below.
I love all this to death. An odd idiom but so Halloween. And true.
The Party, 2015-2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
Witch 2, 2018, acrylic on panel
The Old Soldier, 2019, acrylic on panel, and detail
The Mourner, 2019, acrylic on canvas and detail
Night Out, 2018, acrylic on canvas and detail
Mask I, 2018, acrylic on panel and detail
Bat, 2015, acrylic on panel and detail
Witch 3, acrylic on panel, and detail
Cat Mask, 2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
Showoffs, 2019, acrylic on canvas
Mask 2, 2016, acrylic on canvas
Trick or Treat Night, 2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
Together, 2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
The Bat, the Fawn and the Mummy, 2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
Candle, 2019, acrylic on panel, and detail
Halloween Party, 2015, acrylic on panel, and detail. Private collection
Mother and Son, 2015, acrylic on panel, and detail
Detail of Witch No, 1, 2018, acrylic on panel
The Photograph, 2018, acrylic on panel, and detail
Pavement in front of the Oscar Wilde Bookshop W. 27th Street, New York in October 2019. Sent by a friend