Submission No. 37

Joan Linder’s entire show at Mixed Greens Gallery. There are a series of detailed india ink drawings of kitchen sinks, a series of time lapse drawings of kitchen sinks, and one gigantic book showing a lovely rolling landscape that looks remarkably like a sink filled with dishes set into a tiled kitchen counter.

Joan Linder, Sink. Mixed Greens Gallery, New York, April 25 – May 24, 2013.

Joan Linder, Sink (7th Generation)




Oh brilliant Joan Linder. Thank you.

When any artist — or any person — gives you the gift of getting you to see… something in a new way, the proper response is gratitude. So thank you.

I have never looked at sinks this way before, as testaments to human folly and beauty and perseverance and tedium and tragedy and grandeur. And now I will.

These drawings are sad, but they are also rebellious.

As we take in the first one posted above (the larger image), we see right away that the dishes need to be done. We also know that the artist who sketched them was, importantly, not doing these dishes while she sketched. Something more important had come up: making a representation of them. Exploring their meaning and the feelings they evoke… So there’s an element of fun, a “screw you” energy in these drawings from the beginning.

What else do we see? It is clear that the stuff on the left side of the sink has just been dropped in there, bowls still half full with soup or melted ice-cream or something else. A mug with stars on it, and a spoon inside it — was it left there overnight? We see the open, plastic liquid dishwashing soap container, with its top tipped off as if greeting us from afar… a true gentleman. (Or a creep looking to get lucky?) We see the lid of a saucepan, like an afterthought (considering that its mate is upside down, fully cleaned, on the right). We see the faucet at the center bent over like a curious bird, craning to see the progress of busy human hands.

What Joan has done is to get us to see that a kitchen sink is an arena of repetition, yes, but also of care, of time passing, a record of digestion, of nourishment, of celebration (see, e.g., the wine bottle). A record of lives, lived.

If we look at any one thing in this world closely enough it captures, in it, the whole world in that one thing. That is surely because everything is equally material, and so equally valid as an object, and, in this sense at least, ravishing to behold. Likewise, everything is provisional, embedded in time, in the process of decay. That twofold awareness (everything is the same, everything is dying), which can be evoked by any material object at all — a leaf of grass, a half-submerged iceberg, a woman wearing running shoes you pass on the street, a square of light on a floor, a kitchen sink — underlies all artistic experience. Joan has gotten us to look at a sink, and through it to see the daily effort we make to thrive, the squalor of our efforts, the futility but the extraordinary majesty of them too.

Notice how, through the succession of drawings, the neck of the sink faucet turns, as if to behold what is happening around it. In the last image posted above by Miriam we see the faucet actually facing towards us but looking down. Is it ashamed? Did it lose interest? Or has it been defeated? Even better, if we resist anthropomorphizing it, then we see  a series of vertical lines (the empty glass, the dish soap container, the faucet, the wine bottle), and at their sides diagonal lines (the garlic press, the handle of the saucepan, the butter plate and cover). Nothing fits exactly to anything else. There are no perfect corners.

All of us will need regular washing anyway. The work will go on.

About Tom Clyde

The best place to learn about me is to read my riffs. What could be more revealing? Cheeky, maybe, but true enough.

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