Mirror of Life, Henry Koerner, 1946

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Oil on composition board. Whitney Museum.

The whole image is comprised of varying scenes on one landscape, one globe, that connect in surreal, imagined ways. The street of a celebration scene leads by a warped metaphorical bridge to the front porch of an old couple colored green– they may already be dead. Over their roof leans a frumpy, middle-aged man who’s just left his very normal woman in bed to look out his window over his surely disappointing, surreally laid-out life. An unhappy dinner party takes place by a lake in the center, but the lake itself looks more like a glimpse into the underworld than a reflection of nearby trees. A nude man murders his brother in a field on the top left of this world, (very reminiscent of Cain and Abel) mirrored by topless farmers on the right. Metaphorical roller coasters can be seen in the distance, and a grotesque grayed woman examines herself in a more literal mirror while her even grosser friends look on. Really the only aesthetically pleasing aspect of this painting is the woman in the advertisement on the side of the middle-aged man’s building, but even she has a crack running through her face.

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1 Comment

  1. Just saw this in Akron. I did not take the central image to be a dinner party at all. I took it to be the administration of medicine, an image found elsewhere in Kerner’s paintings and drawings. Of course, it is ambiguous enough to receive multiple interpretations.