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"Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds (War Is Over)"

Alice McMahon

Galena, United States

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Artist's Description

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Pastel painting on Kitty Wallis sanded pastel paper. From a photo shopped photographic reference shot I took of my daughter.

My daughter and model dragged me along to an antiwar march in DC this past St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2007. Best parade I was ever in on the day! That march really influenced my work and “Lucy” was painted a month after the experience. The photo reference was taken at Kent State University when we were visiting my son for homecoming. My daughter was standing on the hill where the shootings had taken place in 1970, I saw the shot, and captured her as she really was, crazy Halloween top hat and the balloon she’d Christened “Tuesday” with a sharpie marker. I reversed the puffy white clouds in photo shop to create a smoky haze of “War Is Over” clouds. The white outline around the figure was a remnant of the photoshop effect. I liked the surreal quality of that so I kept it for the “LSD” Beatles factor. The piece is framed in an old 70’s frame and studded with plastic rhinestones. ;-)

“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

Additional information from my myspace blog:

I’ve been getting some questions about this piece, I suppose because it’s a bit of a departure for me. More surreal or psychedelic than my usual work. Part of that is intentional as a reflection of the nature of the Beatles tune which influenced the work. John Lennon always denied that the song referred to LSD, and was really inspired by Julian’s childish drawing of a girl flying in the sky. Appropriate that this pastel is inspired by my daughter’s personality. It shows her progression toward adulthood, which is the underlying theme of my White Album series.

This work began as a candid snapshot of my artsy daughter at 16. We were visiting my son at Kent State U, Ohio, for Homecoming. She was really wearing the cheap top hat around campus that day, she had gotten it for her Halloween costume. The Kent Homecoming committee were passing out the balloons and she took one, and for some reason decided to name it “Tuesday” and wrote that on the balloon with a sharpie. It was a windy day with large puffy white clouds, and she was standing on the hill where the Kent State Massacre had occured. This is an important detail about my thought process for the piece, as the tragic event happened in May 1970 – the year the Beatles broke up, and around the time John Lennon began his life with Yoko and did the Baggism, Bed-In and “War Is Over” song and campaign.

I saw the shot that day as she stood on the hill, and my daughter held the pose for just a moment. She hates when I take her photo – but she’s so damn quirky and cute I can’t resist! I got down low to have only the sky for a backdrop. Her expression is actually more resigned exasperation with me than anything deeper. Somehow her signature stoicism works.

I played with the image in photoshop and liked the sky reversed, with darks where the whites had been. The blue sky turned the opposite on the color wheel, “marmalade” colored. The white outline is a remnant from the photoshop effect I was using, and since she was backlit in the original photo, I thought it was cool, and again, a bit surreal. The balloon was really blue, but the effect reversed that, too. It’s not meant to be realistic. I had just watched “John Lennon vs. the US” at the time and thought I’d add the words “War Is Over” to the balloon, as a flashback to the 1970’s and a hopeful premonition for today. “War is over Tuesday” may have worked as well ;) My daughter is an activist against the war and while she doesn’t like her likeness here, she does like the message.

The flowers on the balloon could be a reference to “cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head” but that didn’t occur to me til today :)

My friends have been interpreting this piece in different ways. One wondered if the balloon is her hallucination. Another says the clouds are post-war colors. I like that.

~ A

All Products Tags

activism balloon clouds girl hat sky teen top war

Artwork Comments

  • brianjarvis
  • modernlifeform
  • Scott Ruhs
  • Rudschinat
  • Alice McMahon
  • David White
  • dogbreath
  • dogbreath
  • Alice McMahon
  • NervousNellie
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