December 5, 2008
Art Criticism: A Contemporary Triptych
M. Louise Stanley, Functional Family: Mom’s Version, Dad’s Version, Kid’s Version, 1993
Humor is a technique that some people use in comedy shows and pieces of art. M. Louise Stanley uses humor to help make statements about the human condition. M. Louise Stanley’s Functional Family: Mom’s Version, Dad’s Version, Kid’s Version is based on the Spanish court painter Diego Velázquez’s Las Menimas Stanley says, “humor is the camouflage for the ‘real’ subject and bridge to the darker, more disquieting side of the story.” The Functional Family is about a mother who seeks a life outside the kitchen; she is worn out.
In Functional Family, Stanley has dressed her subjects in seventeenth century costumes to reflect the period of Velázquez’s Las Menimas. The door in each scene remains the same because it is half open. In Mom’s Version, the furnishings that are absent are the kitchen table, TV and fruit basket. A dog has been added to the kid’s room. In mom’s version she is relaxed and reading while the father and son are doing the chores. In dad’s version, he is watching TV carefree. And in the kid’s version, mom and dad are waiting on them.
The art elements that are emphasized are the texture and color of their faces. The dark colors are on the walls where there is no light. The light is coming from their faces and the TV. There is little movement. Each character has things to do while being still. Whether it is to read, do homework or watch TV. The dominant interest in each painting is the mother because she is the subject. In the painting, she is relaxed because no one needs her at the moment. When she doesn’t do chores, she seems like she is about to explode. The opposite door might place the viewer in the front of the family since it is reflected through the mirror.
The mood is tiring and relaxing for the mother. Here she is working all day with little time to rest. She is...