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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:38

Video transcript

frans how's Molly baba is not an easy image to look at our historians have actually found documentation that this was a historical figure somebody who actually lived in Harlem at this time she was in fact committed to the city of Harlem's insane asylum the owl comes from a Dutch expression to be as drunk as an owl but also a reference to the idea of night and perhaps also a reference to Molly Baba's nickname would refer to her as a witch and of course the owl a signifier of witchcraft it's interesting to know just biographically that the artist runs howls the son was also committed there with her so it seems that the artist was perhaps inspired to explore madness in this very direct way this is a very complicated picture terms of the response that it evokes in us it's that feeling of being someone who isn't connected to reality anymore and wondering what their interaction is going to be with us she gonna ask something of me is she going to speak to me I want to back away so it's the unpredictability it's the risk that she'll to easily step outside of the conventions of interaction that I won't know how to respond to her and it's very uncomfortable so here we have an artist who is painting this image of her maybe she sat for him maybe she didn't but it's an investigation of her insanity it's an investigation of the dangers of drink it's his own exploration of the world that his son inhabits perhaps but it doesn't seem particularly sympathetic I think he painted her very honestly I think that's part of the rapidity of the brushwork is that it is a Cott moment she appears out of control and part of the reason for that is cause handling of brushwork you see this incredibly rapid incredibly gestural brushwork it seems almost as if it is his signature across the surface look for instance at the white at the bottom right that seems to be where she ties her apron or look at the black line that defines the shadow at the end of the ruffle of her collar it is just electric we see his hand moving with lightning speed across that surface and it seems to mimic the unease this woman herself I think the brushwork is a perfect metaphor for her state of mind in a way that is really tragic and we have this moment of laughter yet what we're looking at is the tragedy of mental illness and I think that's part of what makes us uncomfortable as viewers especially since laughter should take place in a social environment and we don't know where she is but generally we would hope that she would be in a tavern with others perhaps a joke had been told and she was responding but because that other information is not available to us she's isolated with her own laughter making this even more uncomfortable you know the 17th century in Holland was this moment when painting becomes modern in that it begins to fulfill its potential to represent humanity in all of its facets no longer is painting relegated to the religious no longer as painting relegated to the Royal portrait but there is this attention now to some of the complications that make us human