The Power of Pictorial Narrative


High school taught me many useful lessons: how to make a passable martini; words can be more destructive than fists; part of the story is always outside the story. It is the story telling aspect of some paintings that has always attracted my collector’s eye. A case in point is “Moment Island” by Allison McCall. The image shows three bears on an island. Why are they on the island? The bears are separated; two are at one end of the island and one at the other end. What has caused the separation? Is the single bear being sent away, cast off the island? Is a young bear being given his walking papers by his parents? Is there no longer enough room for all of them? How does the title connect to the image? What exactly is the “moment?”

     McCall’s second painting is called “Boxers.” On the surface at least, the narrative suggested in this painting is quite straightforward. Two large bears are boxing. We have dancing bears so why not have boxing bears? Closer examination raises certain questions. Why does  the bear on the left have gloves and a uniform and seems more aggressive?  Why does the bear on the right project an image of weakness? No gloves? No uniform? Are the bears on separate islands? Is painting number two the result of painting number one?

This ambiguity forces engagement as the viewer becomes an active participant in the creative process, providing his/her answers to implied questions.  That’s what good art is all about. Just ask Sister Wendy. 


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