The Nervous Magic Lantern is strikingly low-tech and could have come about centuries ago. Longer than that and perhaps it did and was thought too strange and avoided like sin. A lightweight propeller steadily turns, interrupting a beam of light. This is almost the only difference from when sunlight, coming in through a small opening into a dark space, sent an inverted image of the outside world onto cave walls. Unknowing creatures were scared out of their wits but I know this for a fact that one enterprising fellow held his hand over the opening and, saying he had an in with Superior Forces, charged admission to see the “miracle”, inventing religion, theater and exploitative capitalism all in one brilliant stroke.
The stark, self-contained faces in Susan Bee's paintings accent a subjective interiority adjacent to the space of others that is in sharp counterpoint to the ominous menace that hangs over the coming events. There were no screams or facial displays of emotion surrounding these "desperate hours," but rather a deep dwelling in mood that somehow distances the subject from her "fate." The characters are about to go through something "shattering," but their expressions let us know that they won't really be there when it happens. They are watching it happen to someone else as when one stands beside one's self and observes the body going through its motions. To my mind, Bee's paintings offer a profound look into the face of noir that sees one's fate leading to disaster but is powerless to stop it. What is so moving to me about these paintings is the choice not to be there when "it" happens, to chose not to give one's self to the oncoming event, to say in effect, there is a part of me that is unavailable to my fate. Perhaps this is something thatseparates Greek tragedy with its over-the-top outpouring of emotions from the quieter, more self-contained, modern feeling of the tragic.