She can take the dark out of the nighttime & paint the daytime black. – Bob Dylan
Magic – was once referred to as “the art”, and Art, like magic, through images and symbols, seeks to alter consciousness. Both create illusions that trick the viewer. How is it that Harry Houdini was able to perform “Metamorphosis”, an act where he and his wife, who was locked in a trunk, switched places in three seconds? The neuroscientist Beau Lotto states, “We do not experience the world as it is … because around 90 per cent of the information that we use to see isn’t fed to the brain from our eyes. We perceive mostly during periods when our eyes are fixed upon something. Our brains construct the rest of our visual world, filling in the gaps.” The magician uses this limitation to divert our attention, making us vulnerable to manipulation as we struggle to distinguish between illusion and reality (noun: legerdemain – 1.skillful use of one’s hands when performing conjuring tricks, sleight of hand, and deception). In a magic spectacle we experience awe unaware that it is quite routine that in our daily life our perception of the world is a constant navigation within a box of tricks. Our eyes can easily deceive us. We are open to both trickery and wonder.
Painting – has a power that enables the viewer to imagine the world with a kind of raw vividness. Like “sleight of hand”, the manipulation of paint presents a new way to interpret reality. To transmute matter – pigment – a chemical substance – into an illusion that conveys meaning, is basically a magical form of conjuring, sleight of hand, and deception. We are open to both trickery and wonder.
The Magician (the father) – arrives home from the violent events of horrific magnitude in World War II. Somehow he survives while many of his friends do not. He has to leave many of his friends behind to be placed in boxes to be put in the ground. He asks himself, “Where did they go? Why am I still here?” These questions and sense of loss will always remain with him. He quiets some of these questions by becoming a magician – an amateur, but still one who can bedazzle his family, his friends, and other magicians at the special club he attends. He studies some of the many secrets in making illusions. He can seem to make things appear and disappear. He cannot bring back what he has lost, but he can pull a coin out of his daughter’s ear. He can mesmerize with his card tricks.
The Daughter (the painter) – becomes fascinated by illusions, to ask what is true and what is mere surface, and the way that making art feels like a magic act. And because of that fascination with illusions, she chooses to learn to paint – making something appear where once there was nothing. And she finds that painting frees her from her melancholy, like magic helped to free her father from his, and he encourages her. She studies the many secrets in painting, through a golden apple of enchantment, navigating the world that is a box of tricks: looking for what is beneath the surface, or has been lost or hasn’t yet been seen. “Transfiguration” in magic, and in Art, is about changing form, as a bird symbolizes transformation and freedom – giving us the illusion we have wings.
Cheryl Parry All Rights Reserved. © 2021
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