In “Picnic in the Rain”, you are the vitality of the work. Your presence activates the work just as the work gives you whatever feelings or perceptions you take away from it.
On it’s most basic level, Picnic in the Rain is an environment for contemplation and consideration. It mimics the energy of a zen garden, carefully placing picnic objects on a ‘lawn’ surrounded by balanced scenes of a lake in the rain. It is a kōan, a moment in time, a place which seeks to confound the habit of discursive thought and open the mind to awareness of what is around you. The ‘lawn’ in the center of the room anchors you in the space. It is your place. You are the individuals invited to a picnic. Not a picnic of the body but one of the soul and mind.
You are almost surrounded by water. Water is a fundamental human symbol. Our bodies are made of between 55% and 60% water. It makes up the essence of what we are. It was for Carl Jung the symbol of the collective unconscious. Water represents the “repository… of conceptual… patterns behind all our religious and mythological concepts, and indeed, our thinking processes in general.” M.Allen Kazlev
Why the picnic? Because it represents direct ideas of pleasure and discomfort. It connects us with people we care about and nature. A place for sharing food and laughter. It can also be a place of discomfort, with the possibility of insects and humidity to remind us of the reality we so artfully try to avoid.
So, too, the rain. A spring or fall rain can be delightful and comforting or treacherous. It gets us wet and cold as it refreshes. It ruins the picnic at the same time that it connects us to the incredible force of nature.
This work undoubtedly takes its essence from art history. It is a re-rendering of the famous French painting, “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” by Édouard Manet. This infamous painting knocked the French middle class off its collective comfortable seats by placing a nude woman of questionable background on the grass with two clothed men. All these people were contemporaries of Manet, not the gods and goddesses typically used by other artists of the time to disguise prurient interests.
Yet interestingly, Manet’s painting owes so much to the high Renaissance artists Raphael (through a print by Raimondi) and ultimately Michelangelo. What Manet was doing was thumbing his nose at the high-minded attitudes of the time by re-interpreting the work of the great masters and bringing them down to earth.
The essential difference in my “Picnic” is that you, the audience, replaces the central figures. In Picnic in the Rain, you stare out at the work and back at each other, becoming central characters animating it to life.
But what of the large shadow on the wall facing the main piece? It is the presence of the artist, or you as audience, or Manet. It is the representation of the act of creating something, doing something, putting energy into making a painting, as Manet did, or setting the space for a picnic in the rain.
In the end what matters is the giving back and forth of what we do every day, exchanging energy, ideas, feelings and thoughts with one another and our surroundings and affecting everything around us.
Special thanks for making this possible to: