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Starry Night Bang Bang
I found the metal beside Falls Road just north of Baltimore City when I was returning from a dog-walk in Robert E. Lee Park. The trailhead at that point is adjacent to an old serpentine quarry in an area known as Bare Hills. Rusted bullet holes pierced the sheet and cracked the white enamel (perhaps this was once part of a kitchen stove) reminding me of road signs pocked with bullet holes I would sometimes see along the most remote roads in the rural area where I grew up. As a child, I imagined young men, excited and somewhat wild, shooting pistols from car windows as they drove the isolated roads at night. Even after years of weathering and rusting the inwardly flared holes in the metal record the sound of guns.
Light coming through the bullet holes forms a pattern of points of light suggesting stars. The arrangement of blue stars is always changing between any of 32 possible constellations.
I naturally associated stars in a night sky with the famous painting by Vincent Van Gogh, one of my long-time idols. It was not until the final stage of painting the back panel that I decided to explicitly emulate Vincent’s treatment of the sky in his painting. And I remember that Vincent shot himself.
I live in Baltimore City not far from a notorious drug-dealing corner. Being inclined to walk the dog late at night, I have too often heard popping gun-fire punctuating the dull roar of the city. My childhood memory seems innocent by comparison. This painting is a slanted reminder that violence, particularly gun violence, is close, even to the warm security of a home kitchen.
Dan Conrad, August 2013