Vertigo, by Lyn Ward: An Exhibition

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Vertigo: 05 -- The Girl : IMAGE 60 : The Shot


The Girl : IMAGE 60 : The Shot

Walking home, after having been laid-off from his job, the father of The Girl fortuitously passes by a billboard advertising Peerless Life Insurance, and hatches a desperate plan. Fishing out the life insurance policy from a bureau drawer, and determining that it should provide ample financial support for The Girl after his death, the father carefully, with workmanlike efficiency, cleans a pistol and, as shown in this astonishing image, attempts suicide by blowing his brains out.

Sharing the frame with the ghastly flower of the pistol shot, are four hands: The father’s clutching the gun handle and The Girl’s extended toward it. Arriving home in time to see her father lift the gun barrel, The Girl tries vainly to prevent him from firing the shot. However, because of her, the gun seems to be jostled just as it goes off. The father survives, but he has maimed himself: He is blind. Having sought to sacrifice himself to spare his daughter the deprivations and disgrace of poverty, the father ironically manages to increase them, and The Girl is compelled to sacrifice herself to support him.

The father’s attempted suicide occurs in 1932; "The Girl" concludes six images later, in 1935. No longer in the apartment, she now lives alone. If her father died in the intervening three years, there has been no Peerless insurance windfall. Having been compelled to pawn her violin (a deleted image suggests The Girl chose relinquishing her music over prostitution!), The Girl has joined the masses of people subsisting on public charity. "The Girl" concludes, as every other section, with a jumbo sized Image: The Girl stands on a relief line, by herself, head bowed. A star twinkles in the distance, an ensign of uncontrollable fate. Its presence here suggests that The Girl has accepted the inevitable churning of destiny and, therefore, although she has experienced great personal loss, in a certain sense she is undefeated, and therefore open to the pure possibility of change.

Print view Vertigo by Lynd Ward: image 60 print - struggle for the pistolBlock view Vertigo by Lynd Ward: image 60 block - struggle for the pistol