By R. Pikser
Signature Project is
an immense (76x36 feet) painting of the sun, the seasons, the universe, nature,
and one glowing heart. The painting is composed of many panels, as one might expect
of such a large piece. But that is only the most obvious level of this
conceptual work. Each panel that makes up one tiny part of the large picture,
is composed of the signatures of the people who have viewed the painting.
Dunning, the painter and presenter of the evening, speaks to us about the many
elements that make up the panels and the painting, we see photographs of these
people morphing into each other and we learn a tiny bit of their stories, much
as a signature is a tiny bit of who a person is. The signatures have been digitized
and color coded, then transformed into larger images, so that one would not
know that signatures make up the larger work.
PATRICK DUNNING in THE SIGNATURE PROJECT at
the Sheen Center
is also the telling, on stage, of how the work has developed over the
twenty-six years of its creation. That creation involves, besides the signatures
and the overall picture itself, underlying layerings of X-rays, Morse code,
Theremin vibrations, and the thought that has gone into making this project. One
must follow Mr. Dunning beyond the range of what it is normally possible for us
to see and hear in order to apprehend his work. Mr. Dunning speaks, and
thinks, of the space between things as being not empty, but full. There are
colors we cannot usually see, sounds we cannot usually hear, and thoughts we do
not normally take the time to think.
of interconnectedness is the theatrical presentation itself, by Mr. Dunning and
his actor/musician/dancer colleagues, including his brother in Ireland
who speaks to the audience and plays the flute for all of us in real time.
Each of these elements makes different aspects of the painting come to life for
us, in their present and in their past, which becomes present. Mr. Dunning,
though he has crossed the United States multiple times presenting this work,
seemed to be speaking about his work for the first time, to just this group, as
he described the work and its history and its levels. We expect this
discipline from theatrical performers, not necessarily from painters, but Mr.
Dunning is nothing if not a perfectionist. He moves us from the intimate and
specific, like his black and white family photographs, to the universal, to the
hidden, then back again, each time showing us how to look at things from
different perspectives so as to uncover more. His use of technology is
integral, not only as it hides and reveals itself in the painting, but in the
performance. All aspects of the evening partake of this consummate
professional care, including the young Irish dancers from the Aherne Sheehan
School of Irish Dance. One presumes dancers are found from local schools
across the country as Mr. Dunning travels, but one expects that, no matter
where they are from, they will be professional.
we are taken on is like a recursive meditation. An example: We begin with one
panel of the painting, move to the old black and white photographs projected
onto a scrim, to projections of stars and flowers also onto the scrim, which
then spill beyond the proscenium to surround us. We are taken back to the
scrim, where we see a glowing heart like the one that is the center of the
painting; suddenly it appears on Mr. Dunning’s black t-shirt, then he plucks it
off and holds its light on his fingertips for a moment before casting it away,
into the universe perhaps.
Like all good
art, this presentation summons magic. The real magic of this evening is the
transformative effect it has on the audience. Which of us will ever be totally
unaware of our connectedness to the stars and the cliffs of Ireland, the
butterflies and the snowflakes, and to each other after this evening,
especially after we have added our signatures to the project?
March 8th -25th
Center for Thought and Culture
New York, NY
Hours: M-F: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. & One Hour before Performances