With only a handful of summer weekends left, who wouldn’t happily ditch the work week to slip into a well-appointed French piscine? Luckily, Leah Giberson’s photorealistic painting can take us for the French Dip we’ve been dreaming of. Working from a photo she took in France in 2019, Giberson painted this cool, summery scene in 2020, using her unique and multilayered (literally!) process.
Giberson begins by taking a photograph, then prints it, cuts it up, rearranges it. Only then does she pull out her paints, working painstakingly on top of the assembled image, washing over certain aspects of the composition, and dialing up the intensity on others. (Here’s a delicious timelapse of the artist at work.) Giberson is fascinated with memory and the way humans create and recreate stories, writing: “My process echoes the way we each edit and reconstruct our own experiences, weaving together fact and fiction to create our own personal narratives.”
If you’ve been following our editions of Giberson’s work, you’ll notice that French Dip has a bit of a different feel than other pieces we've released, like double take-inducing Palm Springs Pacer. Here, the photorealism is contained to the water, inviting the viewer to imagine the rest of the sensory sentence: the coolness of the water, the light smell of chlorine, the sensation of buoyancy. The life in the water is what’s most real, and the surroundings soften into a dream-like state.
It all clicks into place when considering that Giberson painted this piece in 2020. The dreaminess that pervades much of this painting evokes the widespread experience of haziness when it comes to memory in COVID times.
Also striking about French Dip is the solitude. True, Giberson’s other paintings lack overt human subjects in the composition (though you may see the artist or her family popping up in reflections), but there’s something secluded about the color palette, the vantage point of the viewer, and the chairs — unsat in, slightly akimbo. Who are the chairs for? Do the trees in the background provide company? Beyond the trees the world dissolves further, making the world of French Dip painting feel tiny, but also open and peaceful. (Yes, please!)
We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what will be the iconic works of art of this strange time. What will those works say about all of us, and the experience of the last 18 months? With French Dip, Giberson begs a question that’s profound and important: how will we construct the narratives of the pandemic? What will be painted over, and what will be rendered in exquisite detail?
With art for everyone,