david salle does Sistine


I’D SEEN THE SISTINE CHAPEL a couple of times and been awed—along with hundreds of others craning their necks—but I’d never really studied the paintings. After doing some reading on their iconography, I began to see images that had a metaphorical quality I thought I could deal with. The idea of the commission was not to repaint the ceiling, but to make some kind of contemporary reference to it. Together with Carlo, I picked the three themes of the Creation, the Flood, and the Last Judgment as being representative of the whole. The first painting I worked on represents the Creation. Rather than take the most famous image from that cycle, in which God touches Adam’s hand, I used the image of God as a purple-clad protean actor flying around, building, making stuff happen. This seemed the most compelling and straightforward image to use, because God was so identifiable and, in Michelangelo’s mind, linked to the idea of the artist-creator.

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