When first considering my response to Vermeer, I was immediately struck by the two main subjects of his paintings: women in domestic settings and the light. Photography literally means writing with light. The camera is a device capable of slicing time into a fraction of a second. Painting natural light, which is in a constant state of flux, requires great sensitivity and skill. This is where Vermeer's genius lies. Though he may have used Camera Obscura, which would have been helpful with perspectives and objects in his paintings, it does not capture the light as it changes over the course of a day. I tried to demonstrate this by tracking the natural light in my studio, creating a kind of moving image within a still image.
The pensive women in Vermeer portraits made me think about ‘A Doll’s House’ (1879) by Henrik Ibsen. In the play, Nora, the main character, leaves her husband to discover herself. The play caused a huge controversy at the time. Ibsen was inspired by the belief that “a woman cannot be herself in modern society.” He wrote the play while travelling in Italy where he became acquainted with Tarantism. Tarantati, female victims bitten by a mythical spider, suffered from a condition very similar to hysteria and melancholy, the symptoms Nora experiences in the play. These women were repressed by their society and the “bite” allowed them to be wild.
The only cure for Tarantism is the rite of the tarantula, which involves trance-like dancing, accompanied by live music, sometimes for days on end.
In ‘A Dolls House’ Nora performs a similar kind of a wild dance. The dance is a struggle for life, embodying anxiety and pleasure. In my piece Tarantula I sought to animate the pensiveness of Vermeer’s female figures through the Tarantella dance.
The work was framed in Dutch ebony frame from Vermeer's period and printed on handmade Kozo paper. In the collection of National Gallery of Ireland. 1/3 (two are available for sale).