Artist: Gideon Bok
This triptych, an oil painting on canvas, was commissioned by the Mattina R. Proctor Foundation for the University of New England. The original is installed in the entryway to Goddard Hall, at the Portland campus of the University of New England. Used by permission of the artist and the University of New England.
Artist’s Statement (Right and Left Panels):
My painting practice involves working directly from life and responding to whatever is in front of me in real time. This made for a pretty active painting process in this landscape, and I was constantly scraping paint away and applying new paint to accommodate the different perceptions as they happened. The house is the one that Mattina Proctor lived in for most of her life. As a result, the character of the site, for me, had a great deal to do with Mattina and her character. Her house always smelled of garlic, so it seemed appropriate that when I harvested some garlic scapes from my garden, I put a ‘bouquet’ of them on the lawn. You can see this bouquet in the foreground of one of the landscapes.
Mattina’s mother was Annie Proctor, my great-aunt. Everyone called her Nanny, and she was a character, to be sure. Nanny carried that combination of irreverence and dignity that makes southern ladies seem innately capable of managing with grace, wisdom, and good humor. Nanny and Mattina carried a deep sense of loss with them, which manifested itself differently for each of them. For Nanny, this became an infectious, warm, lighthearted but intense love. Mattina operated more inwardly; she was very quiet, but always present and engaged with all conversations and events.
Artist’s Statement (Center Panel):
This painting is of my studio in the 855 Commonwealth Avenue buliding at Boston University. The throne-like chair with a photograph on it is my great-aunt Proctor’s chair. Through the window there is a view of downtown Boston, where Mattina Proctor (Annie’s daughter) had her apartment. Mattina was passionate about opera, and spent part of the year in Boston so that she could go to the opera regularly. The time of day is the ‘golden hour’, when the light is an intense reddish gold. I tried to limit the times I worked on this painting to around that time of day, over the course of the autumn through winter and into the spring. The rest of the objects in the studio are things in the studio that I have collected over the years: a sheep skull from the sheep farm I grew up on in Camden, a human skull, a skull-shaped glass bottle on the speaker next to the sink, a silver candelabra from my parents’ house, and guitars, records, and books. Most of these objects have historical, personal, and cultural significance for me, and some are incidental, and have no significant meaning other than as a means to defining rendered light and form in space.