Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Living Your Life in a Goldfish Bowl

1985 John Alexander Born: Beaumont, Texas 1945 oil on canvas 90 1/8 x 120 in. (228.9 x 304.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of United Stationers, Inc. 1995.70.1 Not currently on view

Gallery Label

The tangle of brushstrokes in Living Your Life in a Goldfish Bowl brings to mind the clotted, suffocating density of swamps in John Alexander's native Texas. The goldfish bowl represents life's generalized paranoia and viciousness, as well as the specific pressures of his career. This painting captures the dark humor of a man who says that artists, like "thieves and hoodlums," earn their living after midnight. Alexander admits that the scale of his paintings contributes to the anxiety he experiences in the studio, where he veers between pride and doubt. When he isn't painting, he watches the great blue herons waiting to snap up the koi from his pond, and thinks of his critics' judgments: "Try opening up on the canvas, pour yourself into it, and then let 300 to 400 people come in and reject you or praise you."

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Animal - fish


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About John Alexander

Born: Beaumont, Texas 1945

More works in the collection by
John Alexander