Jonathan Ching takes two figures of feminine tragedy and weds their stories in I Dream What I Dream When I Was Awake (After Wiles).
Based on a photograph taken by Robert C. Wiles, the oil-on-canvas painting depicts a foreshortened female body lying on a deceptively calm surface of midnight blue. The picture is of Evelyn McHale, who fell from the Empire State Building in 1947.
So compelling was the image of this young woman in repose that Andy Warhol used Wiles' iconic work—the only one published by the photographer—in his Suicide (Fallen Body) serigraph.
Sixty-five years after the photograph was taken, another artist has surrendered to its haunting power. Ching reimagines McHale as a modern-day Cassandra, a female archetype of romantic suffering. I Dream What I Dream When I Was Awake (After Wiles) is his abstracted take on the original.
The energy of the strokes, the thick daubs of paint, and the metal embellishments are all signatures of Ching. Stylized flowers made from hammered copper, a metaphor for the Grecian diviner's delirious riddles, grace the swirling surface of his canvas.
McHale may be gone but Ching ensures that her story will not be forgotten. There she lies on a Prussian bed—legs crossed, hands encased in white gloves, eyes closed in eternal sleep—dreaming while the rest of the world watches.
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