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2006 07 27
Angle of Incident 13: Mother And Child Chair
By Gary Michael Dault

These chairs were on the front lawn of a house on Delaware Avenue, near where I live.

They were already stacked and positioned like this.
I didn’t touch them.

But I did go back home to get my camera and set out again to photograph them.

I couldn’t get past their easy, graceful, gratuitously proffered symbolism.

It was their mother and child look. They were even a Madonna and child. The ur-family.

The white chair (actually there are two of them, close-stacked, but let that go for a moment) was the parental chair: it seemed insistently motherly, symbolically speaking, because of its whiteness (i.e. it’s purity), even with its whiteness having become rubbed and tawdry with use (aren’t all our whitenesses just so?). It would have taken a darker chair—black or brown or grey—to look fatherly; symbolism predates both stereotyping (indeed it calls it forth), varieties of sexism and (stereotyping’s subordinate clause) political correctness generally.

The pink chair is the child chair: it was made for a child, and is as pink as the roseate, cherubic hue conventionally assigned to children in painting, film and even in literature (where it has to be spelled out).

The pink child-chair is turned “backwards” towards the “body” of the mother chair. It is in the archetypal “snuggling” position. I am interested in all this. I was once busy with a series of photographic works I called Archetypes of Attitude. It was about how an object’s disposition in space can (often and eloquently) generate attitudes and ideas. I once photographed a green plastic perforated box that had held blueberries because, lying on its side with its lid awry, the box looked like a cell or cage from which something had escaped (which was of course true): its attitude generated ideas of release, of earlier enacted flights.

The child-chair has cutsy decal-decorations on it: which, in the beginning, were supposed to have endeared it, I guess, to the child who would use the chair. Now they function as labelling, an aid to classification, relegating the pink chair to childness in general.

The green green grass underscores the pastoralism of the iconic, three-chair arrangement.

For there are, as I pointed out earlier, three chairs: two white, nested parental chairs and the kiddie chair. The white nested chairs are sufficiently close-packed to function as a single heterosexual (parental) unit. Or a doubled but same sex unit (two lesbian chairs rearing the child-chair? You can scarcely fathom its configuration, its densities, by the way, as two gay male chairs rearing the child-chair).

But I read the double-chairness this way: as an inescapable echo of the parental hierarchy of a painting such as Leonardo’s Virgin and Child with St. Anne (1508-10), showing Mary reaching for the infant Jesus, while sitting on her own mother’s lap.
[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 07/27 at 01:22 PM

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