Alkyd and Acrylic on Canvas,
Store-Window Madonna belongs to the same group of paintings as The Annunciation, The Conversation, The Singing Angel, and the unfinished Mannequin. Like many of Ken Tolmies recent mannequin works, it is mixed media on canvas, underpainted in acrylic and finished in alkyd. The isolation and repose of the figure, and its full-frontal posture, connects it with icons of the Virgin, juxtaposing it with the bold scarlet figure of Cold, Cold Heart, a commercial Whore of Babylon. The serene and enigmatic head with its minimal features and downcast or closed eyes, inviting the gaze of the viewer without challenging it, recalls images of the idealized or abstract female face as diverse as those of Piero della Francesca (1420?-1492), Constantin Brancusi (1876-1956), Hepworth (1903-1975) or Picasso (1881-1973). The fact that this treatment, even of a mannequin in a store window, immediately invokes the sympathetic response of the viewer and creates the dummy as an object of pathos, goes to show the longevity of the Virgin as an icon, available as an archetype of femininity for over 2000 years. This painting, like all the recent mannequin works, reveals to us the persistence of cultural memory; it is strangely easy, almost automatic, for the contemporary viewer to impose an identity on the blankness of this metallic face.