The limits of the frame and the subsequent limits of the artist are the focus of Leslie Brack’s Sunset, a powerful reminder to the viewer that the art of representation will always be just that: mere representation. The title of this piece primes the viewer for a beautiful, raw image of one of nature’s most accessible phenomena. But the reality we are confronted with is the highly superficial television screen, a display fabricated by a man-made object. The picture on the TV, while grainy in appearance, is the most colorful image on the canvas; thus the eye is forced to remain focused on the constrictive frame before them. Beyond the frame of the TV the viewer is plunged into darkness, evoking a state of isolation that further depresses the scene.
Sunset, Leslie Brack, Undated (2011.22)
The image posed on the television screen embodies a fundamental flaw in the nature of art. Humans, despite all their efforts to capture the world before them, can never achieve more than imperfect representations. Art, like the TV screen, will always be a description of reality because it can never transcend the confines of the canvas. Thus, a painting, however accurate in detail or conception, will forever contain an element of illusion. Brack’s Sunset is an acceptance of this eternal dilemma and a reminder to the viewer to remember that art can never surpass our own reality.
The sunset before us is stunning in color and depth. The poor quality of the TV screen manages to communicate only a small fraction of the beauty one could experience in the reality of the sunset without the confines of the frame. The television frame both limits and directs the viewer’s gaze, defining their world for them. The artist, in framing their subject, restricts the viewer’s gaze in a similar manner. Thus Brack draws a parallel between the imprisoning gaze of the television and the restricted world the artist imposes on their viewer. Sunset introduces this bittersweet portrayal of the frame in order to create a distinction between art and reality. While the representational world of art deserves respect and appreciation, Brack encourages the viewer remember to see reality beyond the frame.
By Virginia Girard, Class of 2017