I recently finished Die Vierte Wand, a painting dedicated to Berlin and what living here has come to mean for me. Beginning as a desolate construction site under a night sky, the image evolved into an open air stage set in which artists ply their trade. Die Vierte Wand, or The Fourth Wall, refers to a strategy in theater in which the actors imagine a fourth wall between themselves and the audience. The audience can see through this illusionary wall, while the actors inhabit the imaginary world they create on stage.
By now, we have all experienced the surreal scenes of empty city streets, closed venues, and the constant uncertainty of living with an invisible threat to our very existence. Artists, especially those who must perform to ply their trade, find themselves cut off from their livelihood, and as the weeks have become months, we mourn the loss of this vital connection to their voices, their music, their movements.
In the image, I paint the young ballerina in the style of a child’s drawing, while that ballerina was myself, trying to reach my arms up as high and as gracefully as my sister, back then, the real ballerina, and now, the one who reminds me to keep dreaming. She represents the dreams we must nurture to create. High above on the scaffolded wall, sits a couple of bums, as my father would have said – that’s him on the right with his Austrian “Hut”, and next to him, his old roommate from college – Peter Falk. He’s probably saying to Papa, “You know, you think you know, but then, you don’t know…” and Papa says “Keep on keep’n on!” They are the angels who I feel sure have watched over me and helped me get through this uncertain time. More than that, the dreams and memories finding their way into my recent paintings, and perhaps guided by my angels, have helped make being in Berlin more meaningful for me. Nearby, up on the scaffolding, looking fearless and relaxed, a saxophonist – my son, playing his horn.