Prologue for Veronica

Visual Arts


When Mark Caragiulo opened Veronica Fish and Oyster, he commissioned old friend and artist Brian Haverlock to create four paintings exploring the story of Veronica, from the Elvis Costello song of the same name. Haverlock agreed, leaving his new home in Columbus, OH for a planned five-week stint back in Sarasota. Five weeks turned to months, with Haverlock eventually returning home to complete the work—four panels unraveling and mythologizing the tale of a woman waiting for her love to return from his doomed voyage—which Caragiulo hung on Veronica’s walls in early 2017. Now, in the face of an impending hurricane, Haverlock returns to Sarasota once more for the fifth and, perhaps, final piece of the project—“The Kiss.”

Whereas the previous four panels tell the story of a pining Veronica, imagining the life and love that could have been and part of her maybe hopes is still possible, Haverlock now turns to the beginning of the story, and the fateful kiss that stole Veronica’s heart. Working in layers of collage and mixed-media, Haverlock begins with the found image, and found the perfect starting point in an old Victorian photograph of a woman reclining in her lover’s lap as they share a passionate kiss. “That photo is like a Pieta image, but Victorian,” says Haverlock. Adding rollerskates and a garter belt (“for a little sauciness”) to the woman, he had his Veronica; painting a mustache on her paramour, and he had his Thomas.

From there, Haverlock’s process is one of building up and tearing down. Experimenting with images and media, he collages and constructs, creating a textural landscape on the previously flat panel. For “The Kiss,” it’s the bridal veil that receives the brunt of the artist’s work. Beginning as a simple white veil with a rose in the middle, Haverlock builds and builds, until it becomes a seething mass of fabrics, roses, butterflies and even fish, cascading from Veronica’s head, or mind. “Once I start collaging, there’s no telling when and where I’ll get to some final conclusion,” says Haverlock, “but the unraveling of thought into a pile of fish was appealing.” Using glue to fill in the gaps and crevices, the veil solidifies into a single sculptural element popping from the wall.

As before, the panel contains myriad hidden references and thematic touches easily overlooked, but undeniably contributing to the wholeness of the experience. The parasol Veronica holds over their heads, Haverlock transforms into a construction of riveted sheet metal, bearing the stamp of her lover’s ship, the HMS Empress of India. On the floor by the pair’s feet, love letters from the two lay scattered.

“This is the most intense of all five,” says Haverlock, surveying his work as Caragiulo prepares to hang it among the rest in Veronica Fish and Oyster. But still, the pair remain unsure whether this is truly the end. “I don’t think Veronica’s story is every finished,” Haverlock says. “We’ll see.”

Pictured: Detail from "The Kiss" by Brian Haverlock. Image courtesy of Mark Caragiulo.

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