In My Spanky-Wanky World
oil paint on canvas, 102 in x 126 in, 1997-1999
In My Spanky-Wanky World, evolved out of my desire to express the tumultuous world of childhood. The setting is our garden in Mexico. The sky pulsates with conflicted imagery which is held together by fire. My family was also, in an ironic sense, “held together” by the destruction of the Second World War. The stories of immigration and assimilation that my Grandparents told gave us a sense of identity and an odd sense of importance.
The figure of a zebra represents the complex role that lies often play inside the life of a family. In a Swedish children’s book, the zebra represents the liar because of his black and white stripes. His stripes reminded me of the uniforms worn by prisoners in Hitler’s lagers. His lies were also evocative for me. I believe that lies are the inevitable consequence of shame. The persecution that my Grandparents escaped, left them ashamed and uneasy. Aspects of their story will never be revealed to me, and sections of their narrative differ vividly in different accounts. I have come to believe that these “lies” express a certain kind of deeper truth. The lies represent the fantasy of what could have happened. They represent the various feelings associated with actual events. Only the liar can invent his or her particular brand of fiction.
Words teem across the surface of the painting. These words function in many ways. They tell about the imagery and subvert the imagery. In places, the words express more than the imagery reveals. In places the words are just embellishment. Pictures and words are our conduits to self-understanding. I tried to use the two-year experience of painting In My Spanky-Wanky World, to paint myself out of childhood and into adulthood. In some ways, the exercise worked.