SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Alley next to Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Church, 906 Broadway at Mason

Sandra McKee, Killing a Painting (17th November 1979)

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Scene: The painting “Self-portrait as Pigpen” is wedged into an area between two buildings. It is fairly dark. Over the face in the painting is a white handkerchief. On the ground in front of the painting are two brushes, a jar of turpentine, a piece of newspaper, a tube of red paint and a tape recorder.

Action: I place a cassette in the machine and while that plays, begin methodically to paint wounds on the self-portrait. At first, they are small cuts painted with the smaller brush, but when I begin to use the larger brush, the wounds become gashes. The tape repeats. Finally I slash the canvas with a knife, remove the handkerchief from the face, and smear the freshly painted red lips.

Tape: It’s traditional for painters to kill or sacrifice some of the figures they paint. (McKee 1979: 52)