The Painted Theatre Project (PTP), Patrick Duegaw’s current body of work, which includes The Innumerable Anxieties, and the on-going Creation, Preservation, and Destruction series, reinterprets both painting and the basic rules of dramatic construction. These Productions combine installation, painting and theatre, where, in place of thespians, objects, and a stage, it instead features a painted cast, props, and sets. The action that takes place is rendered to imply movement, rather than actually performed, and the dialog is written rather than spoken. These static-theatre productions have grown out of his wide range of experiences, from the construction site to the stage, and as a painter in his studios both at the Fisch Haus and in Montréal, Québec.
The Innumerable Anxieties are a response to the early Christian tenets of conduct, known colloquially as the seven heavenly virtues and the seven deadly sins, in the form of a series of paintings that explore what the artist posits are “countless and mundane trials of the human condition.” Begun in 1997, this body of work portrays humorously nightmarish large-scale figures engaged in a myriad of circus-like spectacles: allegorical images that illustrate seemingly infinite, and uniquely personal musings, that meditate on an individual’s ongoing relationship with anxiety. The circus becomes the backdrop for scenes of self-perpetuated melodrama. The performers in these paintings provide a medium through which viewers may vicariously partake of danger, albeit through the benign perils of manufactured stress. The performance is complete when combined with the appropriate painted props, and sets.
Creation, Preservation, Destruction is a series of PTP performances staged in multiple exhibitions exploring the concept of a three-state simulacrum of being. A deconstructed play evolves as cast members (portraits) are chosen, sets (interior panoramas) composed, and props (provocative objects) created to further the narrative of one of the three states. Destruction, for example, is represented in an exhibition entitled Inadvertent Arson, which follows the cast as they struggle with various forms of self destruction, futilely employing props of paradoxical fire extinguishers, within sets riddled with potential disasters.