Clown Portrait

(Clown Portrait)
Found 03/2012, Thrift Land (Stassney and South First)

3-24-12ThrftLndClownYellow3A powerful reflection of the old adage, “crying on the inside,” the make-up effects used by the subject of (Clown Portrait) are minimal—a slight darkening of the eyebrows, a modest exaggeration of the mouth. This is clearly a character clown, in the “tramp” mode, down on his luck and mourning his fortunes, or lack thereof. But the extensive make-up of the typical clown creates a sense of distance, of the alien. The spare costuming and the very human gaze show that the tramp exterior, the hard-luck case, is a thin veneer over a character who is still more tragic. The comedic exterior cannot mask the sorrow underneath. The dull gray haze of smog behind the subject and garments so distressed they become symbols of decay, accentuate the sorrow of the image.

Unique among the works in the Dayle Memorial Harlequin Collection, (Clown Portrait) was kept in Beebee Dayle’s bedroom suite, and remained there when the historical Dayle House was donated to the city of Austin in 1938. It is believed that (Clown Portrait) depicts Mr. Dayle himself; Wesley Dayle’s relationship to the harlequin arts is complex, a hidden parallel life to his successful career in construction and real estate. If so, (Clown Portrait) shows Dayle at his most vulnerable, and questions the resilience and opacity of all of our masks.

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