I painted this cardboard box for Darren Di Lieto's Mail Me Art project. In this view, you see the back of the box (left) containing most of the art, which wraps around the spine and onto the front (right). The addresses are cropped off.
Anyone can submit to Mail Me Art:
My inspiration for this image was Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, a painting by Edouard Manet. I have a clear memory of the painting from a set of fine art books that my mom bought for me decades ago. Schnucks, the grocery store near my childhood home, ran a promotion during which, every week, you could buy another book from the collection. I loved all of them, but my clearest memories are of Sargant (Madame X), van Gogh (Starry Night), and Manet.
So at first, I decided to simply use Manet's work as a springboard, just for fun. While researching the piece I read that apparently it caused quite a stir when Manet originally exhibited it in 1865 in a Parisian gallery. I hadn't thought about it before, but I guess it is quite odd, arranging a scene of three people (four, if you count the girl in the water), one of whom is completely nude. Some art historians theorize Manet's motive was to pull focus from his rival Monet, by exhibiting such a scandalous scene. I'm sure that was probably part of it. But, I'll bet it started innocently enough: like most artists, he appreciated the nude female form, and just didn't want to muck it up with clothing. Maybe he didn't feel like painting all of that drapey fabric. For whatever reason, there she sits, naked as a jaybird, with two fully clothed gentlemen, and they all seem absolutely and completely comfortable with the arrangement. I never wondered about it before; just thought it was a beautiful painting.
Reading about the scandal, I thought, 'Perfect! Manet was pushing the envelope!' Get it? Mail Me Art... Pushing the Envelope? I know, conceptually it's thin at best, corny at worst. But in it's thin, corny way, it made me happy. To make the whole thing even more deeply perfect, I had used my collection of envelope interiors to make the collage. This, before concocting the 'Pushing the Envelope' theme. Suddenly the whole project seemed to have been divinely inspired; it was all coming together so well. Bliss!
Until... my husband popped in. Fred liked what I'd done well enough, but frankly thought the scene was weird. I explained the whole thing about Manet, showed him the original art and went into great detail about my genius concept, all to no avail. "It's bizarre for a naked chick to be sitting in the park with two guys," said he. Which gave me doubts. I started to wonder what the ladies at the posts office would say, and the customs officials, and Darren, the world at large, etc. I'm a Sunday school teacher, for Pete's sake! What was I thinking? In the end, I was happy to paint some clothes on her; gave me a chance to use my machining stamps with white gouache, which was fun. I like to use them whenever I can (which doesn't happen much at all in my professional illustration work). Crisis averted.
I love your art, Eduoard Manet, and I admire your pluck. As for me, modesty prevails.
All's well that ends well. Hopefully my box has arrived safely in London; I haven't heard yet.
By the way, the ladies at my post office LOVED it. Ah, sweet relief.