When David Lynch isn’t contemplating how good the pie will be when he revisits Twin Peaks, he’s dropping shrapnel from the skies in the form of his painted bas-relief scenes. An exhibition of Lynch’s paintings is currently on display at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA). The visionary director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Inland Empire studied fine art at the Academy in the late 1960s. The program describes David Lynch: The Unified Field as “Lynch’s first major museum exhibition in the United States, organized in close collaboration with the artist. It will bring together approximately 90 paintings and drawings from 1965 to present. Part of the exhibition explores Lynch’s early work, much of which has never been displayed in public.” One of the artworks will be a remounting of Six Men Getting Sick, Lynch’s “hybrid work of art that brought together painting, sculpture, sound, film, and installation.” Are the paintings “Lynchian”? Perhaps. “Lynch’s ability to suggest the emotional intensity of his subject matter through paint textures, surface effects, and physical traces of his hand, brings intimacy and empathy to even the most disturbing narratives. Many works included present a tense, mysterious, scenario suspended in the course of a story. We witness psychologically-charged moments isolated out of context.”
So how does Lynch the painter compare to Lynch the filmmaker? Hyperallergic’s Thomas Michelli writes that “Lynch is who he is, a painter who makes films and a filmmaker who paints … Lynch’s visual art may not match the intensity level of his films, but in some ways it cuts closer to the bone. The simple fact that Lynch makes these objects by hand demands that he own their misanthropy and violence: the brutality of “Bob Loves Sally Until She is Blue in the Face” (2000), a bedroom scene as coldly anti-erotic as anything in Eraserhead, or “Pete Goes to His Girlfriend’s House” (2009), with its pistol-and-knife-brandishing lunatic striding toward the figure of a tiny, helpless woman, can’t be ascribed to the impulses of a fictional character or the necessities of a movie plot. They’re there because he channeled them there.” The exhibition continues until the end of December. My thanks to fellow contributor Willam J. Grabowksi for bringing it to my attention.