Alec Egan Is In Bloom
I, like Alec Egan, love the work of Wayne Thiebaud (1920 - 2021). The late painter’s pastel cake slices and ice cream sundaes prompt reminisces of the dessert selections in the diner case, or a visit to Friendly’s after a childhood soccer game. Thiebaud’s still lives are visually satisfying and at the same time, as Egan mentions in our conversation (included in the Kinstler puzzle of his work) “some of his paintings are just so weird.” The treats in Thiebaud’s works often float, without the context of a home or a restaurant—as if from a dream.
The uncanniness of the everyday is something Egan pursues in his own paintings. Food is the main character in Bouquet with Cupcake (dessert), featured on the artist’s Kinstler puzzle. The cupcake is the last edible to appear in the series of other paintings, which feature a banana, a sandwich, and a bowl of spaghetti. “ I wanted to measure time in an interior through the different meals of the day. There is a breakfast, a lunch, and a dinner painting” Egan says.
Sitting atop a blue tablecloth, in the painting the cupcake is dwarfed by a bouquet of flowers in full bloom. It’s a verdant, if almost inconceivable, display. Every bloom is a different variety, and all face forward, as if posing for a picture. Egan never works from real life, and his source for the flowers were old botanical illustrations, like something you’d find in a biology textbook. In his words “The one goal of those drawings is to depict exactly what something is and how it is different from other things.”
Devoid of any humans, the cupcake and the bouquet become the animated characters of the composition. Looking at the work is an exercise in personification, of assigning characteristics to the objects we choose to keep in our homes as a way of expressing the stories we tell to ourselves—and about ourselves—within lived space. Egan suggests that, just because no person is pictured doesn’t mean a presence isn’t there…“I wanted to focus on the flowers and make them beautiful and unique, but then add the cupcake in there to make it clumsy and strange and add to this narrative of “who is in the room?”-Maddie Klett