The At the Well series, began as an inquiry carried out through master studies, but quickly merged with my earlier interest in placing multi-dimensional topological forms in a believable world. In this series, I re-examine Bouguereau’s La Cruche Cassée, a 19th century French portrait of a girl leaning against a well with a broken water pitcher at her feet. I have asked: What is it about this painting that has resonated with a large number of people? What role does the broken pitcher play in its appeal? How have vessels changed as metaphors for femininity throughout art history? Can the symbol be substituted with other open-ended or abstract mathematically derived forms?
Highlighting the vessel-like qualities of the Klein bottle, which is a topological cousin of the Möbius strip with an added dimension, I have often replaced the broken pitcher with this new, complicated form. Other paintings in the series, reconfigure the composition to create changed narratives, layer and reflect the composition on itself, replace the original girl with a series of different figures, and eventually replace the figure altogether with mathematical forms. Many of these, including the Klein bottle, are four-dimensional objects projected into three-dimensional space and rendered through light and shadow on the two-dimensional surface of the painting. The process of rendering these forms in two dimensions led to discoveries and questions about the fine line between the representational and the abstract.
These paintings highlight the formal similarities between vessels, Klein bottles, and other topologies, calling attention to the repetition, substitution, and compression required to create both a symbol and a painting. In the language of math, a Klein bottle is a “non-orientable surface with no boundary.” I like to think this could define a painting as well.