I remember the living room in which paintings just like this hung … right in my aunt’s living room, the room I would sleep in when I slept over rolled up tightly in a sleeping bag like a captured bat in burlap. I was captivated by the two paintings she had hanging on her living room wall … at first I believed these to be mass-produced paintings, but they are real paintings by a real artist, Margaret Keane. And I don’t know what is more interesting to think about: an artist conceiving of these children and then executing them so oddly and beautifully … or imagining them being made in a Sears factory alongside numerous thousands of those flush and exhaustive couch paintings.
Keane’s paintings are entrancing … and I was entranced. Normally saucer-eyed organisms would have sent me into one of my all-too-common childhood fits of trauma, but they didn’t. I was petrified of the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy and many other typically beloved characters of childhood, but I was not frightened at all by these creepy little kids staring down at me as I slept. Actually they were a source of comfort to me … loving my aunt but missing my mom who slept miles away from me. I was encapsulated in a safe little cubby much like many of the environs surrounding the children in Keane’s paintings.
Was Keane purely portraying innocence or a sinister darkness that she possibly saw surrounding our children?
This intrigue of Keane reminds me a lot of the intrigue of eccentric children’s author, Dare Wright. These two women saw innocence and beauty in what many people may think to be creepy and dark, maybe even stripped of innocence.
I think of these now, sparked by a recent dream of them. As usual I was lost and being taunted … but this time I was rescued by children much like Keane’s. They led me to an endless, grassy stamp of land that looked so photographic. I was suddenly safe even though I was so much in the open … I think I felt safe because I felt a part of a painting, not actually out in the open and hurtful world. But then there were the staple staircases winding every which way that are always in my dreams … and that sound of the sea whether or not I can see one. I can never find a decent interpretation of my dreams but I am certain dreams mean something … windows, wells into our souls and deep pits of our minds … kind of like the eyes of Keane’s creations never being able to shut.