19 February 2011

New Work: “After the Wake”

Themel_afterthewakeSM My latest work is a portrait of my beautiful sister Megan.  The image is inspired by a photo my brother Patrick took of Meg back in 2000, shortly after the loss of our father.

If you’ve ever been to an Irish wake, you know that it’s a mixture of laughing, story telling and bouts of crying with a lot of food, drinks and random people in and out of the house.  It’s comforting but exhausting.  

With this composition I was trying to conjure the moments after the guests leave, when things are quiet and reality is starting to sink in, when you are too worn out and shell-shocked to laugh or cry, or even talk.  The people still around after are usually your closest family, so you can communicate by simple eye contact.

Themel_afterthewake_finishedDETAILsmIn the photo Meg is looking right into the lens, neither shying away nor playing to the camera.  It could be an act of courage or defiance... or maybe just a way to make a connection during a lonely moment. 

My sister has this kind of mysterious Mona Lisa face that’s often impossible to read – her delicate features can harden into an impenetrable poker face; she is confident and strong but still gives the impression of holding something back to protect herself.  I imagine there are a million things churning behind those eyes.

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