Rema Hort Mann Foundation

Mary Simpson

Allegory is not a future problem. It relies on the past to retell the present. Allegory desires and
consumes: the fragment, the imperfect, the incomplete. It promises to resolve the contradictions
that confront culture, it is perpetually deferred. Allegory insists on abstraction and gesture within
narrative space, producing something more like a pictogram than a story or a history. It is a
supplement, it is excessive, it disseminates, it is a parody.
Painters insist that allegory is real. The allegorist arrives at symbol through intuition. She tends
toward the mythological and psychological resonance of a landscape, a ruin, a surface. She
collects without a goal, piles up the ruinous colors, poses and possible steps. This has been
likened to obsessive neurosis. The directorial mode of painting does not bend to historical

reference. You want to know exactly what it refers to, but you don’t. The allegorist is self-
scattering, she adds another meaning to the image, poses as its interpreter. She enacts

pentimenti, the “first thoughts”—previous traces within the work revealing that she has changed
her mind. She stages disruption, she mocks her own obsessions. She aims for the metaphysical
heart of parody. Parody is a serious matter.
We can think of an artist as producing a model for seeing an image, a model for the observer—
not an image of the body but a body for the image.