The portraits in Oliver Jeffers’s Dipped Paintings series exist as wholes only in the memories of those who’ve witnessed their submersion. Last night, after gathering at a rendezvous point and walking to an undisclosed location, small groups descended into a Manhattan basement and watched as Jeffers lowered portraits into vats filled with vibrant, opaque paint.
As Jeffers explained, the paintings hadn’t been seen outside of his studio, and had never been photographed. (We’d been asked to place our phones in a briefcase at the entrance to assure it stayed that way.) As my group was the last of the night, the other Dipped Paintings were hanging already with their vivid masks of enamel color, foreshadowing the fate of the portrait before us. Showing a woman with red hair cradling a telephone in one hand, the receiver pressed to her ear — the surprised subject also happened to be part of our group — it was slowly, surely drowned up to her eyes in a rich turquoise.