Playing Bodies

by Francie Shaw and Bob Perelman

Working Note: Exploring the space where terror and comfort, pleasure and pain are overlaid, I have done a series of 52 paintings using three small figures, two per painting, in various provocative and ambiguous poses. The figures are familiar toys: a bendable person (either a male or a female), and a plastic dinosaur. The paintings are done in a light style similar to ink brush drawings, in blue paint on high gloss white, reminiscent of Delft tiles. The paintings are metaphorical in that each gesture or pose suggests an often contradictory variety of emotional meanings. The relationship displayed can be read as between 2 figures or between different parts of oneself. At the same time they are clearly paintings of toys. The 52 paintings as a whole do not form a progression; instead, each painting poses a variation of some basic question: is this play or struggle, or both at once, who is carrying whom, who is in control? When displayed as a whole I hang them in a line of two then one then two again to interrupt any particular narrative. (FS)

Francie finished the series in 2000. We had been planning to renew our collaborative work for some time, and as I saw the paintings emerge, I kept wanting to write poems to them, but didn’t begin until the fall of 2001. I tried to do justice to the exhilarating and terrifying primal meanings that I see the paintings display with such passionate wit. (BP)


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BIO: Francie Shaw and Bob Perelman are married and live in Philadelphia, where she is an artist and he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent book is Ten to One from Wesleyan. Granary Books will publish Playing Bodies in the spring of 2003.

The numbering of the paining-poem pairs matches the pages on which they will appear in the forthcoming Granary publication.

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