“Ceci est peut-être une pipe”

abbeyryan-2015-pipe-and-matches-6x8Ceci est peut-être une pipe(2015)
by Abbey Ryan (1979-)
6×8 in., oil on linen on panel
Coppola Collection

Abbey had painted this pipe once before, and some scoundrel had scooped it up before I could get it. I got right of first refusal on the next one.

You might recognize the riff on the famous 1928-29 Magritte painting “La Trahison des Images” (the Treachery of Images), which demands the viewer to think of the semiotic relationship between “the signified” (the object) and “the signifier” (the representation for it). After all, the letters “c” “a” “t” have quite little to do with an actual “cat.”


The quote attributed to Magritte, reflecting on this: “The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying!”

As a chemist, I am constantly facing this semiotic issue when it comes to the molecules I draw (representations for) on the chalkboard, as I blithely start talking about “this carbon atom” and “hydrogen atoms behind the board” – it is important for students to learn how to hallucinate the way I do.

I published a paper in 1997 where I made this point and included this illustration:

When I bought this painting from Abbey, I got to name it. Her classic, realistic style, might well make you think it *is* a pipe you are looking at, after all.

“P, B and J 2015”

PBJ2015PB&J 2015” (2015)
by Abbey Ryan (1979-)
8 x 10 in., oil on linen on panel
Coppola Collection

One of Abbey’s signature pieces that got her attention, back in the day, was a half a PB&J sandwich. I think it is now a more common subject, at least in part, because of her. I have one of those early ones.

In this case, I commissioned her to make the whole sandwich!