Hammock by Kyle Staver

  • Title: Hammock
  • Artist: Kyle Staver
  • Medium: Oil on linen
  • Size: 68"h x 54"w
  • Creation date: 2009
  • Added to collection: 2014
  • Donor: Purchased by Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Campus: Rock Creek
  • Location: B3/1 Hallway gallery

A woman in a white dress sits up in a hammock, her head stretching upwards towards a squirrel on a branch above her. Next to her in the hammock relaxes a man, while on the ground below them a black dog, sensing the squirrel, turns away from the stick he was recently gnawing. The scene is an innocuous domestic moment, whose abbreviated and lighthearted treatment verges on the cartoon-like. But the luminosity in the painting – which conveys the luscious feeling of humidity and fecundity of sun filtering through steaming trees after a summer rain – is as lovingly painted as in an Annunciation. Although the drawing seems disarmingly offhand, all the forms of the painting are in conversation – the woman's neck and the squirrel's body and tail rise upwards with like gesture, while hair, dress and hammock are weighed downwards; a gentle rocking rhythm moves through the hammock's curve, the woman's décolletage and the pendulous branch.  An innocuous moment is imbued with significance. The scale is grand – the figures nearly life size. This is a domestic moment treated with the magical stagecraft of a mythological scene. Staver, whose early paintings celebrated many such moments, has in recent years turned to painting scenes from the bible and mythology. This work dates from the time of this shift.

"To manage the visceral experience of a painting is very exciting. When you first look at a painting, the composition has to be grasped. That is the gestalt. Then it kind of deconstructs into the experience I want you to have. I have recently begun to believe I can control the speed at which I carry you through the painting. There are paintings I want to take you through quickly, paintings that are leisurely, more dramatic, or more contemplative. But they are still moving. I think about that; I care about that. In my paintings, I want you to have the visual experience of every possible area of space. I want you to be engaged and active. If I paint a trapeze, I want you to feel the sensation, so that you physically – not just intellectually – understand it. It becomes a delivery system for the message." – Kyle Staver