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Living in a Painting, for an Evening

Mark Barry, The Birthday, 2001
Mark Barry, The Birthday, 2001
I came as close as I ever may to living inside a painting (much more satisfyingly than in that silly J. Seward Johnson show I wrote about here, here, and here), when I was a guest last Sunday evening in the home of Ionarts contributor and Baltimore artist Mark Barry. Some of my favorite paintings Mark has done (see my review of Mark's show last fall, from November 29) are scenes of family and friends in his house. When I finally entered the places I knew only from his paintings—like the dining room with its long table (image shown here), the living room, the kitchen, the yard patrolled by kind-hearted dogs and chickens, or the interior turtle pond—it was positively Proustian.

However, while the narrator of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu felt disappointment when he actually saw the church of Balbec and found it less glorious than he had imagined it (here's a passage from Swann's Way), it was quite magical to be in the moving version of one of Mark's paintings. As you can imagine in such a home (Mark's wife, Sandra, is also an artist) every corner, every wall, is filled with something interesting and beautiful to see. I especially enjoyed seeing their collection of outsider or visionary art, which is one of Mark and Sandra's special interests. We enjoyed the delicious dinner and charming company in the picturesque back yard, and for someone used to the song of the city of Washington, there was not a single military helicopter or police siren to break the song of the birds. It was truly blissful.

Fortunately for me, one of Mark's watercolors, related to this painting, will now be hanging in my own house to keep a piece of that serenity close at hand. Mark, thank you and keep up the good work.

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