Oil on canvas
Framed: 269.1 x 217.2 x 5.8 cm (105 15/16 x 85 1/2 x 2 5/16 in.); Unframed: 265.7 x 214 cm (104 5/8 x 84 1/4 in.)
Dorothea Wright Hamilton Fund 1997.152
© Mark Tansey
With wit and irony, this painting reveals Mark Tansey’s fascination with the nature of time, space, and painting itself. Against a mountain backdrop he painted four interrelated scenes: a small tribe of native Americans, an expedition of 19th-century surveyors and photographers, a group of tourists taking photographs and home movies, and a toxic waste-removal crew in protective clothing. Each scene is depicted from a different perspective. Shown here in the orientation preferred by the artist, the canvas can be hung in any of four positions. Tansey describes Soft Borders as a “short history of the West from four different points of view.” The artist makes many preliminary drawings and collages before producing a final composition. Once the planning is finished, the time actually spent painting is brief—several days to several months. Tansey’s palette is restricted to one color applied over a gessoed (plastered) canvas, manipulating the paint with brushes and scraping tools, removing pigment until the white of the ground is visible, much like daylight shining through fog.
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