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Image of Insomnia


72 x 72 in. (182.88 x 182.88 cm)

Squeak Carnwath (Abington, Pennsylvania, 1947 - ) Primary

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil and alkyd on cotton canvas
Credit Line: Gift of J. Michael Bewley
Accession Number: 2015.07.04

SJMA Label Text

Rise Up! Social Justice in Art from the Collection of J. Michael Bewley (2018)

Squeak Carnwath’s paintings are a kind of diary of the artist’s psychological questionings. Loosely arranged pictorial signs, text, and abstract markings constitute a vocabulary of symbols and gestures with which to express a fragmented, poetic sensibility. Sinking ships, for example, are a recurring motif. They suggest anxiety and a sense of looming, ongoing disaster—concerns that are both personal and collective.

As Carnwath observes, “Painting is not only a mnemonic device employed to remember events in our lifetime. Paintings address a greater memory. A memory less topical, one less provincial than the geography of our currently occupied body. Painting reminds us of what we don’t know, but what we can recognize as familiar.” Insomnia is an explosive sensory overload, indicative of a physically unsustainable state of mental anguish. The enigmatic iconography reflects the fragmented thoughts that haunt the psyche of the woman pictured at the bottom of this large painting and serve, more broadly, as a reflection of the shared anxiety of our times.


Rise Up! Social Justice in Art from the Collection of J. Michael Bewley
, June 8, 2018 – September 30, 2018, San José Museum of Art.

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