• One Scene: 3 Women

    By Eric White

    1973 Ford Pinto with Tanguy Sky (“3 Women”) 2011 | oil on canvas | 40 x 60 inches

     

    Robert Altman’s 3 Women is a surrealistic and unsettling study in identity theft, where personalities intertwine and unravel amid the desolation of the American West. It stands as one of the most compelling and original films ever made—at once devastatingly sad, hilarious, bizarre, and terrifying.

    The film centers around the relationship between Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek), two lost souls desperately seeking love and acceptance. Millie (a character Duvall nearly single-handedly developed) is unconsciously engulfed by her own pathological narcissism, and is so deeply committed to the fantasy in which she exists that she is oblivious to people’s indifference toward her. Pinky Rose—in Spacek’s words, “the impish eternal child”—seeks salvation in Millie, at one point declaring, “You’re the most perfect person I ever met.”

    The following scene nicely encapsulates the themes of the film, particularly Pinky’s speculation about the amorphous identity of twins—she asks: “Do you think they know which one they are?” It also connects conceptually with a body of work I continue to develop, which reinterprets cinematic car sequences as a means of exploring film and dream narrative, metaphysics, and psychological dysfunction. 3 Women is one of my favorite films of all time, and the Pinto scenes were a perfect fit for this series—psychologically impaired characters interacting awkwardly within a confined and claustrophobic space. Their physical proximity in the intimate space of the car interior is in stark contrast to their emotional detachment and personal alienation.



    As with other paintings in the series, a camera pan or a series of shots is compressed into a single image, depicting multiple aspects and actions simultaneously, idealizing the sequence and manipulating and expanding the narrative. The translation of the dynamic and temporal nature of film to the static form of painting depicts the passage of time in two dimensions, and for me represents the idea of nonlinear and/or simultaneous time.

    In the painting, the characters sit in the car and stare blankly, surrounded by a flat expanse of desert painted like a backdrop, and a sky sampled from the visionary artist Yves Tanguy, in parallel with the surrealism of the film. I’m interested in the artificiality of the interior and exterior spaces and the disconnection between the two, which functions as metaphor for Millie and Pinky, both so disoriented and immersed in their respective inner worlds that they are unconscious of their surroundings and their true selves.

    Eric White is a visual artist showing extensively in the U.S. and Europe, and living in New York City. His work can be seen here.

9 comments

  • By Drake_Avila
    March 16, 2012
    03:06 PM

    Dont really care for the painting. Nothing new.
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    • By Coach Wilson
      March 16, 2012
      04:26 PM

      John, not that you should change your mind about what you care for, but a five-foot long painting compressed into a small jpg can lose a lot (really almost all) of its heat, so to speak. Something to consider.
  • By John
    March 16, 2012
    03:57 PM

    The artist's intentions to depict simultaneous actions and aspects are perfectly executed in his painting. I think a good piece of art is deceptively simple, which is the case of this 3 Women oil painting. In the foreground are two women in the cramped interior of a car in which the roof seems to cave in on them. While on the outside, we see the vast expanse of a desert landscape and even vaster sky. The painting simultaneously depicts claustrophobia and agoraphobia. I like that.
    Reply
  • By Batzomon
    March 16, 2012
    04:07 PM

    I just gotta say, Sissy Spacek and Shelley Long have faces that are beautiful in a way that's a bit...unnerving. Not sure how to put it, but they act well into their faces throughout Altman's film. That ending was just a mind-blinder that makes you question all before it.
    Reply
  • By Drake_Avila
    March 16, 2012
    04:43 PM

    A painting should speak for itself. It's nothing new...the image works better in the context of the medium that Altman used...this is, FILM. As a painting its not innovative or captivating...its belongs to the same vein of the 70's photo-realist movement where the likes of chuck close and Robert Bechtle brought new ideas with realism and painting within the technique. Again, cinema and photography does realism better than anything else...why bother recreating it in the paint...again, nothing new. The image has been seen before. I dont disregard the painters talent as a painter...but the style is dead to me...and that is my only concern regarding art...critics damned to hell...its all subjective!
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    • By Troll Buster
      March 19, 2013
      10:15 PM

      Go away.
  • By HarryZulu
    March 16, 2012
    04:48 PM

    The painting is simply beautiful. Expansively simple, like Altman's best work.
    Reply
  • By Sidney
    March 16, 2012
    05:18 PM

    I actually think the painting is great. It is a little surreal, so is the film itself.
    Reply
  • By Sister Wendy Beckett
    June 08, 2014
    07:39 AM

    When I first ran into your painting several months back, it occurred to me that I had never before seen this particular photo from the film... A couple of days later, when I was no longer under the influence of half of a pint of scotch whiskey, I noticed for the first time that it was, in fact, a painting! Needless to say... I love it! It is, for me, a perfect meditative companion to the scene in the film ("Maybe they're just the same one all the time!")
    Reply

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