A heavy storm pummels a sailboat in this two-part work. On the left side of the diptych, the boat’s bow points upward, its mast erect, as it skips over the pounding waves; on the right side, like the next frame in an unfolding movie, the boat is turned sideways, its mast about to disappear into the stormy seas. This dramatic scene is monumentally rendered in white chalk on wooden blackboards. The scene and title come from a work by the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers, who in 1972 used a found postcard picturing a ship on a heavy sea as the motif for a 16mm film, and the postcard’s French inscription, “chère petite soeur” (dear little sister), as the film’s title.
Like Broodthaers, who was interested in bygone subjects—often from the nineteenth century—Dean is drawn to stories that are futile and elegiac, evoking events fallen out of time. The sea is a frequent motif in her work, and she masterfully conveys the longing and sorrow and the infinity and magnitude of the ocean (and its power over the imagination). In this drawing, water is the force that seals the boat’s plight and also the element that could erase Dean’s unfixed chalk drawing in a single swipe of a wet sponge.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)