Stella Cretek

A Dead Rodent Plus Two Carrots

By - Oct 22nd, 2008 02:52 pm

What’s small and elegant and depicts a rodent, and in another work, two carrots? I first saw these paintings by the late John Wilde (1919-2006), at the Tory Folliard Gallery. Sandwiched between another Wilde (a green pepper), the terrific surrealist trio knocked me out.

Let’s start with the painting of the rodent, and beyond that, an obviously dead rodent. It’s one of the finest paintings I’ve ever viewed, bar none. But why depict decay? Why not depict the firmness of living flesh? Wilde seldom settled for the ordinary, which isn’t to say he slacked off while producing his juicy Cucumber Regal, a small Silverpoint and wash. Magic Realism is tricky. It often takes us where angels fear to tread. Wilde wasn’t afraid to go there.

Microtus Pennsylvanicus, 2003, Oil on Canvas Mounted on Panel. 6 x 8”

So here rests the rodent, memorialized in oil on canvas. Microtus Pennsylvanicus is, at 6 x 8 inches, charmingly small. There’s no trap in sight, no traces of poison, and not a drop of blood anywhere. The bundle of raggedy white fur appears to have dropped in its tracks, weary (I’m imagining here) of living the rodent life, or more properly, the life of a meadow vole, which is what Microtus Pennsylvanicus is. Burrowed under ground, the vole is the food of foxes and fowl. On the other hand, the lowly vole enjoys decimating vegetable gardens.

Untitled (Two Carrots), memorializes a duo of carrots entwined. They’ve obviously lost the garden-freshness of their youthful days, the days when their leafy heads poked above the earth while they waited to be snatched and eaten. Now they resemble worn-out lovers lacking the will to go forward, their best days behind them.

Untitled (Two Carrots), 2003, Oil on Panel, 6 x 10”

Do yourself a favor. Go to Folliard Gallery and ask to see their full selection of Wilde’s work.

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