John Frederick Lewis, known for his 19th century ”Orientalist" paintings, often created two versions of each; one watercolor and one oil. Buyers preferred the oil, darker and richer, over its watercolor counterpart. Capturing the popular myth of exotic Middle Eastern / Northern African sumptuousness in works like ”An Armenian Lady in Cairo" he was apparently an extreme introvert, sparse in speech to the point of silence.
In the film noir “The Dark Mirror” (1946, Directed by Anatole Litvak), Olivia de Havilland plays twins. Delving into her own psyche in her experimentations with method acting, she insisted that cast members consult with psychologists. In a scene involving a Rorschach test, the murdering, psychotic twin, Terry, sees “two men, back-to-back.” As the evil twin, she can always revert to the safety of her kinder sister’s identity. We prefer Terry to the bland Ruth.
Like most noir detectives, we don’t care that Miss Wonderly, Madeleine Elster and Evelyn Mulwray are really Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Judy Barton and Ida Sessions (initially) because we’re attracted to the patina and find comfort in it. The exotic bird statue may be only lead and black paint, but it doesn't matter because we’re still lured by its weight and its possibility. This is what Californians (especially) have come to understand. The gold may be iron pyrite today, but it may be gold tomorrow. The enormous gamble might pay off but it's not the payoff that matters. We cling to possibility like Patty Reed clung her tiny doll to survive the Sierra winter that killed most of the Donner Party.
Photo: House of the Rising Sun Booth Northern California Pirate Days Vallejo, California June, 2018