What color is a mirror? A perfect mirror is white, but real mirrors are not perfect. Real mirrors have a slight greenish tinge that is barely perceptible, but we don’t really see that. The color of a mirror appears to be the color of whatever surrounds it. Making a painting of a mirror is an attempt to paint the unseen and unnoticed. It is an exercise in looking and an attempt at real awareness.
When systems function well, we hardly notice them, but when they break they become visible. For example, our bodies work continuously to maintain homeostasis, but when we become ill is when we become aware of all of this invisible effort, of how good we used to feel. Mirrors become more visible when they are dirty or dripping with streaks of glass cleaner, when the mirror is not functioning how a mirror is supposed to function.
In these paintings, a window is reflected in the mirror. A window is another framing device. It is an object that is hard to see. We don’t see the window, but we see through it and we see the things around it. We are compelled to look out a window, even if the view is not picturesque. Schopenhauer wrote that when we look out a window that view lets us forget our striving for a moment. The light hits our eyes and we use that moment to relax. The window is a respite from the struggle to see the mirror and makes the mirror understandable.
These mirror paintings come from of a larger series about cleaning. They deal with surface-- streaky wet mirrors, glassy windows, and sun-streaked floors. They also reflect what is just beneath that surface-- that women give thousands of hours of unseen physical and emotional labor to the people around them. Learning to paint is about learning to see-- to notice the hue, saturation, and value of the objects around us. But I would add that painting is also about learning to acknowledge these things that are right in front of us and to care about them.