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Father's Letter

On view

Father's Letter

Artist: Katherine Porter (American, born 1941)

Date: 1981
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 88 x 65 1/2in. (223.5 x 166.4cm)
Inscribed: Verso, canvas margin (crossed out): 'A Shadows Dream'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 89.22
Label Text
A letter is, of course, a means of written communication. Letters from family members can be welcome or not, depending on the nature of the separation or the news contained within the note. In Father's Letter, Katherine Porter uses abstraction to convey the responses that can accompany family correspondence.

To the right, Porter suggested paper and envelope, but surrounding them is a great emotional outpouring in paint. The surface is extremely thick with pigment that has been aggressively applied. At the top of the composition, Porter painted strokes of color that resemble a volcano erupting. Below that is a downward spiral in purple and yellow. Porter, in fact, uses color for maximum emotional impact. Complementary colors - such as red and green - appear brighter and more vibrant when placed directly next to each other.

Was it an on-going difficult relationship with Father (who could be a parent or a symbolic authority figure) or some emotionally fraught message he had to tell that caused the artist to paint this agitated canvas? How can we relate to this parent/child dynamic?


© Katherine Porter