The Story of a Painting: El & Peter of White Collar in American Gothic

El and Peter

El and Peter

The story of El & Peter started with Charles Dickens. What did you expect? OK, Neal and Mozzie were somewhat involved too.

Charles Dickens became successful in the Victorian Age with something like today’s TV shows. His work was originally published serially – weekly or monthly. Hence, it is full with cliffhangers, suspension, parallel threads and long time character development. His characters became beloved. So much so that you can find their brain twins in today’s stories.

In commemoration of Dickens’ 200th birthday I went hunting. My results included a paragraph and painting of Neal and Mozzie as their relationship and story shows parallels of that of Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger.

I based that painting very loosely on Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych of 1962, but I could really say that it was based on any of his celebrity paintings. He did a lot of them as Warhol loved celebrities. He was a working class kid who, before becoming successful in fine arts, had a career in advertisement – in selling dreams. I imagine he did not just share the artistic talent with Neal Caffrey, but also a fascination of the life in the clouds with money, attention and respect.

Anyway, back to El and Peter. When you use well-known symbols and imagery in your art, as it is done in pop art in contrast to the use of a set of symbols and imagery that is only known to the artist in expressionism, you might end up to walk a very thin line between fan art and art. Neal Caffrey of White Collar never walked a thin line, he just went ahead and forged. But my idea was to take this concoction of rather unrelated thoughts – White Collar, pop art, fan art, forgery etc. – and with Dr. Ida Fleiß in mind “Creativity is nothing more than the ability to combine two facts that seem like they have nothing to do with each other.” create a series of White Collar – Art Nearly Forged featuring the characters of the popular TV show in well-known pieces of art.

My choice of American Gothic by Grant Wood for El & Peter was based on two considerations: Their life in a town house in suburbia NY that is probably as iconic for today’s city life as the house with the Gothic window was for rural Iowa in 1930. And Peter’s work ethic that fits the idea the fork stood for in the original painting. Right in the pilot he explains Neal that the way it is supposed to be is that you can expect only a certain income from certain work. It is expecting everything for nothing that brings Neal in trouble.

Furthermore however, the symbolism of the fork is broader. Many will think of the devil when seeing it, and Peter definitely has a puckish side that Neal is an expert to put to use. But even older is the association of the three spiked fork and Neptune, the god of water and the seas in Roman mythology. Brother of Jupiter and Pluto, he presides over one of the three realms of the universe, Heaven, Earth and the Netherworld. And – fun fact – he was also worshipped as the god of horses and patron of horse-racing. Well, Peter definitely resides over his realm and expects a certain degree of obedience. Often enough he threatened Neal to put him back behind bars if he wouldn’t behave (not that all his words always fall on futile grounds). Last but not least, horses and horse-racing – Peter grew up up North and might have picked up some things…

Neal and Mozzie

Neal and Mozzie

Sara

Sara

Diana

Diana

Jones

Jones

THIS PAINTING (acrylic on paper, ca. 50×70 cm) IS UP FOR SALE IN THE CHARITY AUCTION OF KIDS ARE HEROES http://auctions.kidsareheroes.org/ GO AND BID!

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