Marsha Nouritza Odabashian
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In The Shade of the Peacock, 2010
 
Shades are shadows, traces, ghosts. I am interested in how motifs persist and change over centuries. The peacock: sacred to Hera in the classical world, manuscript motif in medieval Armenia and the wider Western and Islamic cultural spheres, symbol of courtship, living ornament in a landscape, a bird of the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. In The Shade of the Peacock encompasses all of these and is at the same time none of them. In the Shade of the Peacock exemplifies how motifs function in my paintings, which are the residue of balancing the known, the process of becoming known, and the never to be known. In exploring the ways the physicality of paint and materials mimic the history of painting, of culture, and of my own experience, the 'shades' in my paintings merge perception, illusion, memory, fantasy, dislocation, nostalgia, and oblivion: shades of peacocks, and of other beings. 

Half Perceived: Stalking the Peacock, 2011

Half Perceived: Stalking the Peacock, like my previous series, In the Shade of the Peacock, incorporates and revolves around, with variation, the figure of a peacock, a marginal decorative motif in a 13th century Armenian manuscript. I typically use large central figures surrounded by partly reprentational borders, with its many symbolic interpretations and associations, reflects how we all tend to center ourselves, more or less inescapably, in landscapes of experience that form a background or border of elements that we also know are so much larger than ourselves: they contain us completely and reduce us to a tiny element in a larger pattern that might or might not have a central, loomimg significance like the central motif in a painting. Maybe the best we can do is switch back and forth between centering ourselves and catching glimpses of ourselves as border figures--although seeking ourselves on the border amounts to another kind of centering. 

The magnificent colors and splendid crown make the peacock a perfect central figure. However, when you follow on around, stalk it, as I did with a camera at the Franklin Park Zoo, they spend little time on display and a lot of time acting like birds, walking around, pecking at the ground, monitoring their surroundings. The medieval manuscript tradition preserves this "background" element; at the same time stalking them, photographing them, painting them puts them 'in the center' whatever their place and scale in the composition. This experience of shifting centers and borders is part of what I look for in the painting process itself, with the added dimension of participating in the immense. long, ongoing and splendid history of painting, in which any one person can pretty much only be a miniscule, eccentric element. 

I try to take the center and border one step further by using the fragile and ephemeral media of Model Magic and glitter. art materials typically used by children. A childlike, sometimes mischievous quality often appears in the marginalia of artist monks, which, juxtaposed with the longing for immortality replicates another shift (as artists, we aspire to a sort of centrality, for our work to shore us up, at least by transference, against mortality.) The play between center and border is an inverstigation of this hoped for consolation. 
 
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