The 19th century poet, playwright, and novelist, Oscar Wilde knew how to paint fanciful scenery within the minds of readers. His writings take [us] through gardens and London alleyways, but his most notable visually-captivating work was The Picture of Dorian Gray written in 1890. I won’t reveal too much of the saga but I will tell you it centers around one, haunting painting!
Earlier this year the small performance group Experience Theatre Project commissioned me to recreate my own version of Oscar Wilde’s most famous “painting”. I had originally read the book as a teenager and can remember sitting on the edge of my seat as the young, well-to-do socialite, Dorian Gray progressed into the underworld of sinful living. So as a visual artist, this was my opportunity to translate that captivating object for all the Theatre’s patrons.
The project began with a photo shoot of the striking actress, Katherine (yes, Dorian was plaid by a female! And she was captivating). From there, Artistic Director, Alisa Stewart and I collaborated on the details of mood. Once she and the cast approved the painting, I worked stage by stage to depict “Dorian’s grotesque soul” as he carried out a life of indulgence and greed.This is not a story for the faint of heart; nor is the painting’s final version.
What I enjoyed most about this project was seeing audience members react to each progressive reveal. Just as in the book, we are first introduced to the “pure” and “youthful” painting the day the artist (who was also played by an actress) signs [his] name in gold on the lower edge of the canvas. We then follow Dorian’s social life with small cameos of the painting as it slowly changes until its final reveal wherein there is no hiding Dorian’s destructive life style… Ok. I won’t tell you anymore. However I will tell you that this project was no easy feat. It required hours of research and mini-adjustments to convey exactly what Alisa and I envisioned. Just as Basil (the artist in the book) repeatedly boasts that this was “his best work to date”, I too am proud to claim this project as one of my best to date!