Conversation with a Painting: Silas Borsos’ The Animated Man

by Manny Padernos, MFA 2018

Written for the assignment “Conversation with a Painting” as part of the Critical Studies Course with Karen Wilkin.  Manny writes about a piece by Silas Borsos, Certificate 2018. 

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Silas Borsos, The Animated Man, 2017, Oil on canvas, 54 in x 72 in

8:15 pm

The Student Gallery

The New York Studio School

It is a chilly night. The moon is full but Manny is alone in the gallery. There are soft voices at the adjacent Drawing Room where Ophrah Shemesh is passionately conducting her watercolor class. Manny stands in front of one of Silas Borsos’ latest works on display this week, The Animated Man (Fig 1). It is a painting measuring 54 in x 72 in and finished this year. He painted one of Manny’s favorite characters in the 1995 computer animated film Toy Story, Woody, an old-fashioned pull string cowboy doll. It brings memories– happy and good recollections. It makes Manny wish that Silas were here since there are questions to ask. Manny smiles and closes his eyes.

WOODY:  What do you want to ask my Maker? I could probably answer them.

MANNY:   Are you real?

WOODY:   I am in the painting. Of course, I am real. But I am not Woody. I am a mascot pretending to be the Sheriff Woody. I am make believe. But the painting makes me real.

MANNY:   Can I see the real you? Can you remove your mascot mask?

WOODY:  That is a question you don’t ask a mascot. We don’t reveal our true selves.

MANNY:   Why then did Silas painted you?

WOODY:   Because he believes. He saw me in 2015 walking in front of McDonald’s at Times Square. He still believes.

MANNY:   He believes in what? Friendship? Jealousy? Fantasy? Toys coming to life? The limelight of Hollywood? The commercialism of McDonald’s?

WOODY:  “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.

MANNY:   Is he a preacher?

WOODY:  He is a painter! He painted me in oil. I used to be made in fabric and foams. Look at me now. I am coated in pigments and linseed oil.

MANNY:   Why paint McDonald’s? Yellow taxi?

WOODY:   Why not? He is painting his time! He is painting what he sees.

MANNY:    But there is a quality of past in his work. Hmm… Nostalgia. An atmospheric past.

WOODY:   Life is a dichotomy. The building architecture has an old Hollywood glamour yet it has a logo of the most contemporary burger chain. I am a man portraying a cartoon character.  Am I Woody? Or am I Silas? There is always duality in life.

MANNY:  There is another character in the painting. He is wearing just a mascot head but I could not tell what.

WOODY:  Yes but he could not talk. He is busy eating.

MANNY:   Are you going to eat at McDonald’s too? Where are you going?

WOODY:  Do I suppose to know? Silas painted me in a space mid-off center. What do you think?

MANNY:   You have three choices. Eat at McDonald’s, take the taxi or continue walking ahead.

WOODY:  (smiles) You have answered your questions. Silas wants his viewers to finish his painting for him. Life is a journey, of travels, of many questions. Sometimes those questions are answered and sometimes not.

MANNY:  That’s the reason he painted the yellow taxi? Your horse!

WOODY: The taxi is always there. You just need to take a ride.

Manny smiles and closes his eyes. The Drawing Room doors open with a loud bang. Ophrah’s class is finished. Students are walking out of the room in a rush.

Manny looks back at Woody.

Woody is frozen and painted. He is still walking to his next destination.

 9:31 pm. The moon is still full.

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