DOUBLE-SIDED SCREEN (CHASM)
Oil on wood panel
Courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY
Darren Waterston has created what looks to be at first glance an elegant Gothic-revival screen that could be found in the library of a home such as Glenview. Like many Gilded-age houses, Glenview’s interiors reflect the ideals of British architect Charles Locke Eastlake, who admired medieval furniture and decorative motifs, seen in the pointed arch of Waterston’s Double-sided Screen (chasm). Eastlake’s book, Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details, was influential on home décor on both sides of the Atlantic, and he helped popularize the adoption of furniture with “olde” English and Gothic elements.
This work is part of a series of panels exploring mystery and wonder, the spirit and the sublime, and is inspired by devotional architectural structures, such as Renaissance altarpieces and Gothic church partitions. Waterston replaced their traditional religious iconography, painting his own images onto historical looking furniture and reinterpreting them as mesmerizing objects with supernatural overtones. The Victorians were obsessed by the paranormal and attempted to “make contact” with spirits.
This series is entitled Split the Lark, from the lines of an Emily Dickinson poem: “Split the Lark—and you’ll find the Music.” Dickinson suggests that by staring too deeply at what makes something beautiful, we destroy the thing we hope to better understand. Like a magic mirror, Waterston’s swirling pigments hint at something sinister lurking beneath the surface. As the artist says, “collisions of beauty and the grotesque are continuously found in my work. This is what ecstasy is, transcendence through rhapsody and terror.”