Beauty is often found in its purest form– a hidden waterfall, the smiling face of a child, the soft wrinkles of a grandmother’s hand. But other times, perfection is manufactured and beauty hides a darker truth. In his ColorSafe series, Los Angeles artist James Rieck spins the glossy glamour of 1960s and 70s catalogue models into a look at social contradictions happening then and now still.
Rieck takes the ubiquitous catalogue model poses and reinterprets them– painting them in such a hyperrealistic way that they take on a now too-glossy, unreal quality. In pairs, one light skinned model, one dark, the figures wear the same brightly colored and patterned fashions of the day, similar smiles on their cropped faces. The playing field seems oddly leveled– equality, acceptance and coexistence seemingly achieved. But there’s an underlying tension. The dark skinned figure usually slightly behind the lighter or somehow leaning in to her counterpart. Subtle, but there. Equality in idea, but not in reality.
Aging is not for the faint of heart. Now that I’m truly and well into my, ahem, forties(!!), I know this to be true. Metabolism is no longer my friend and each day seems to bring a new grey hair spotted, an ache in a previously undiscovered muscle. Our culture celebrates, even idolizes youth. Instead of seeing the elderly among us as founts of knowledge, wisdom, and experience, we cast them aside. We search instead for the latest in what is fashionable among the young.
These paintings by Austin artist Elizabeth Chapin seem to celebrate the dignity and beauty that comes only with age. I’m not immune to longing for more youthful days– especially when I was a smaller by a few dress sizes. But I recently listened to an interview with actress Frances McDormand on aging and something she said really struck me– those lines on your face are a map of your life. Every wrinkle was earned in some way, whether through hard work or a life filled with laughter. What we lose in smooth skin and toned muscles we gain experience no fountain of youth can replace.
We find ourselves in a superficial world. Most days, the bulk of our interactions may be on the “like/dislike” spectrum. We send quick quips on social media to people we barely know or haven’t actually spoken to in years. Because we seem to know so much about the surface lives of the people in our networks, it can be challenging to go deeper.
These paintings by New York artist Vicky Barranguet reminded me of the beautiful messiness that can come when moving beyond the surface. We might be initially drawn to someone through shared interest or similar personalities but when we are brave enough to pass through the layers, the more common ground we find. Things may get a bit messy as we reveal ourselves and others do the same but there is great beauty to be found in the deeper chaos.
It’s easy to get thrown off balance when life plunges an obstacle into our path. We feel like we’re moving along, making progress and then BAM! Roadblock. These paintings by Spartanburg artist Page Jones Davis, with their layers and visual depth, reminded me that although we’ll be met with obstacles, the road ahead remains the same.
Maybe we need to circumvent to get around what’s blocking us. Or perhaps the obstacle isn’t as insurmountable as it might seem– given enough determination we can just plow right through! It can be so easy to just give up, though, can’t it? It’s too hard, there’s too much in the way. But there is always a pay off once we get to the other side, even if it is just in knowing we could do it.
I think we all know the feeling of wanting to clone ourselves, to be able to be in several places at once, to be all things to all people, at all times. But try as we might, the truth eventually sinks in that it just isn’t possible. These prints by Jackie Phillips, also known as Precious Beast, with their mirrored, Rorschach-like patterns seem to do what we can not– multiply themselves.
These colorful kaleidoscopes feel like they could be portraits of how we feel we should be– a new and different yet exactly the same version of ourselves reborn each day. We’re pressured to multi-task, multi-hyphenate ourselves– mother-wife-daughter-artist-professional-and so on and so on.
With the advent of Memorial Day last week, full blown summer is just around the corner. It seems like we never outgrow that old “schools out” feeling of the summer months! We want to linger a little longer, explore, leave our stresses and cares behind like last year’s books. The paintings of Brooklyn artist Charlotte Evans bring to mind those slow, carefree days spent running nowhere special.
As the artist recounts on her website, “resolutions for one painting might be found in another- a thread of narrative emerges.” These painted memories could be glimpses of every summer, the scenes we see when we close our eyes mid-winter and dream of what is to come.
Mr. F and I do a lot of exploring in unfamiliar territory. Weekends often find us driving down new roads to see what we can find. Since we only stay in each place for a short time, we usually get to know the places we pass by sight, but never discover the people behind them or the stories they have to tell.
These collages by Edinburgh artist Mairi Timoney create a visual exploration of unfamiliar places. We’re given hints at the stories behind each place– a line of clothes strung between trees, a storefront, a suburban garage. The glimpses, like my view out our car window, give just enough information to drive the imagination to create our own stories for each new setting.
To see more of Mairi Timoney‘s work, please visit her website. Check out the Artsy Forager Great.ly gallery for prints of the two of Timoney’s collages!
We when are young, it’s easy to believe we are invincible. We’ll live forever, nothing can touch us. But as the years creep onward, we realize just how very tenuous this life is. As delicate as a flower. The work of UK artist Simone Truong reminded me today of this beautiful fragility we so often take for granted.
It can happen in the blink of an eye– one wrong turn, being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a split second and life is never the same again. We become so tempted by the path everyone else has chosen that we forget that we are only given this one chance. Why use up our chance living someone else’s dreams? Or by not filling every day with as much love, beauty and kindness we can muster?
Everyone wants to be known as the “sweet one”, right? We all have that friend, the one who never seems to say a word in anger, always kind and generous no matter what. I wish I could say that was me.. but I think my, uh, salty side comes out more often than not. It’s that typical angel on one shoulder, devil on another type of situation– I want to be sweet and gentle, but I also refuse to be misunderstood, misaligned, or abused in any way. I’m sweet but I won’t melt.
I was drawn to the Sugar Series by Bay Area artist Anna Membrino not just for the confectionary palette but for the way these cotton candy colored forms take on monumental status on her canvas. These sweets are anything but shrinking. In fact, they seem downright mountainous. I think there’s a lesson in there for me and anyone else who struggles with sweet versus strong– just because you are one doesn’t mean you can’t be the other.
One of my favorite things about the West Coast that I didn’t grow up with on the Florida coast is tide pools. Mr. F and I spend lots of time exploring and examining these little microcosms teeming with life. Tide pools always seem so precious, not just because of their importance to the environment, but for their temporal state. They are only exposed for a certain amount of time, then once the tide comes in, they disappear again.
These mixed media paintings by Minneapolis artist Ashely Peifer remind me of the multitudes of creatures living together in pools between the rocks. Elements float in and around each other, patterns intersperse and lay one on top of another like seastars clinging to barnacles.