A Group Exhibition Exploring Emotional Malaise
June 25- July 30, 2022
Anna Conway, Caroline Absher, Deborah Brown, Elizabeth Huey, Genevieve Cohn, Hilary Doyle, Julie Heffernan, Katelyn Ledford, Lanise Howard, Melanie Daniel, Natalia Arbelaez, Paige Turner-Uribe, Patty Horing, Sahana Ramakrishnan, Samantha Joy Groff, Scout Zabinski, Therese Mulgrew
THIS IS NOT ABOUT MEN…
One morning I was showering after a week of unsatisfactory dates. Mind you- I pushed myself to go on them because staying home alone should not be my modus operandi. I realized my interactions were obligatory at best- solicitous. Banal. Feigned. Essentially the metaphorical mini bar was open and the most generic of snacks were served. I felt nothing. No glow. No anticipation. The kind of experience one has when they book a room at a Holiday Inn express. You know the bed will be adequate. The shower will be plastic lined- the soap small. Coffee machine dependable. Utterly forgettable- purposely so, so that the next visit will be a feet dragging collapse. As we shuffle our way through emotional obligations finding little comfort in the non-stop act of performative giving, do we take a moment for ourselves? Or is that gesture fraught with guilt? When does saying yes to everything become saying no with conviction? Are we willing to take that risk?
Loneliness makes for strange company.
So, in the spirit of ennui and an utter lack of womanly passion- I bring you “hospitality suite” an homage to the empty. In all of us.
The artists selected for this exhibition were presented with the curatorial statement before deciding to participate.
Anna Conway shares in her artist statement: “Many of my paintings depict fragments from unfolding narratives in which ordinary people are suddenly confronted by forces much greater than themselves, either due to circumstances beyond their control or because of an unexpected momentary suspension of disbelief. The paintings are windows onto brief moments of radical experience that take place wherever we least expect them. The ambiguity the viewer senses in these narratives derives from the inability to know the internal nature of the subjects’ epiphanies. We witness spontaneous disruptions in ordinary days without being privy to the exact nature of either their causes or their effects. Even when I am painting a space without people, I am describing a space that someone has arranged to be either a reflection or an enlargement of themselves. The scenes I paint are invented, and as a result the paintings have a sense of everything being equally defined and in focus. The palpable role of time and labor spent in the production of the paintings echoes the relationship of work and routine to transcendence that is presented in the narratives. The futility of the task being attempted in many of the images I paint serves, on some level, as a metaphor for the activity of using such a labor-intensive medium and technique in a culture characterized by disposability.”
Scout Zabinski presents work from a deeply personal place; she writes about her painting “Full Bloom”: “This piece and the accompanying poem were inspired by the folksong “Ring-A-Round the Rosie” and my own experiences with intimacy. The theme for the show, titled “Hospitality Suite”, made me think about my mind and body as a home and a space I let others into. It’s a haven that I will learn to love to live in, a garden I must nurture, and the only guarantee I have in this lifetime. I thought about much I give and how much I take from this world, from others, and from myself, and what we choose to give to each other in place of ourselves. Flowers die quickly once plucked from their roots but serve as surrogates for our own bodies when bestowed upon another. The nursery rhyme and child’s game “Ring-A-Round the Rosie” is at once silly, dark and joyous. It’s the epitome of a love we all seek in life, the ones with our flowers. Skipping in circles side by side with our palms kissing. An unspoken agreement that not only will we all fall down, but our ashes will rise. “
Therese Mulgrew utilizes dramatic lighting and a film noir like setting to introduce her narratives, when discussing her works for the exhibitions she writes: ““Ticking Clock” represents the literal image of a classic alarm clock. It is possibly from the 90’s or early aughts, a time before we were attached to our phones. There’s a simplicity to this object, a nothingness to it, the time doesn’t matter and yet it does. As women, whether we like it or not, we’re always glancing at the clock. How’s our timing? Are we where we should be? Are we running out of time? “
Bre” wears a white tank and looks at the viewer with vulnerability, maybe even worry. As an audience, we’re not quite sure of her story. She’s a natural beauty, dressed down, stark against the flat red background. Her expression represents so much about what it is to be human, and especially to be a woman, to carry so much on your back. She leans forward towards us, catching and comforting herself.
Hilary Doyle creates images in motion. Windblown and ethereal her narrative is grounded in history and reflection. “These paintings depict a public park and contemporary Garden of Eden. In it Eve, Pomona, Medusa, and a community of women reclaim the forbidden fruits and snakes, co-opted from ancient goddesses, by male religions. Medusa, once cursed, is liberated and celebrated in the garden. This world relies on the understanding that the study of Goddesses and matriarchies are keys to realizing a positive future, and yet remain hidden: lost in “prehistory”, in the trees and clouds, in memory and myths waiting for redemption.
I always wondered why Adam threw Eve under the bus. I grew up in a religious home and went to Catholic high school. Misogynistic and epic stories were brought to life in glowing stained glass and wildly tragic narrative paintings and sculptures. Wooden crying faces looked up to the heavens. As I paint, I am excavating the hidden and lost symbols of female power embedded in myths of the past and finding new interpretations in the process. “
Deborah Brown has embarked upon a series of “Haunted House” images. The bold colors belie the potential emptiness and inhospitality of the interiors. Long shadows cast a singular figure looming across a solitary street. Brown states: “The work depicts the subjects in their surroundings in the company of their animal companions. Drawing on the rich history of portraiture in Western Art, the artist aims to represent the consciousness of the sitter and the phenomenological act of seeing that unfolds when the viewer meets the gaze of the subject portrayed in the painting. The work questions what it means to be human in an age of digital representation.”
Patty Horing began her journey as a painter later in life. “I am interested in the narrative and psychological nature of portraiture. Contemporary paintings of specific people simultaneously raise questions and offer clues about individual identity and the larger cultural context in which the subjects exist. My goal is not simply to show what a person looks like, but to examine, through subjective interpretation, who that person is, wants to be, has been. Often the subjects’ material surroundings also reflect some aspect of personal desire or identity that is linked to the psychological underpinning of the portrait. By conveying a feeling for both the inner and outer lives of individuals through expressionistic portraiture, I hope to access a deeper underlying current of relatable human experience. “
Lanise Howard paints in technicolor. Her fluid, rich figures reach out to the viewer with a heavily stylized intensity. “My work ranges from portraiture, to large allegorical figurative paintings. The work often lies in-between differing states of being. I aim to create new spaces through paint, where the viewer can become transported. I often think about the analogous world; one which is related to our own but can be a space of new possibility. In my experience as an African American woman, I find myself thinking of an alternative to that experience, one rooted in the necessity to rewrite history. The idea of change then becomes an element of the work, enacted through the dreamed space.”
Genevieve Cohn creates figure in deeply diffused states of richly saturated color “My paintings project possible communities of women by drawing from both a historical and imaginative past, present, and future. Utilizing imagery and ideologies drawn from The Women’s Land Army from World War I and World War II, my paintings acknowledge and reflect a world where female power is derived from collaboration, self-endowed agency and connection with the natural world. I consider ideas of collection, adornment, beauty, and choice as the figures within the worlds of my work construct sacred spaces that engage ideas of ritual and practice. With these two paintings in Hospitality Suite, I engage with the vulnerability and strength of both solitude and togetherness, rest and response. Both are necessary ways of being that allow us to hold space for the weight of the world.”
Natalia Arbelaez creates figures that embrace humor and history. “In my work, I am a storyteller. I am telling narratives about my Colombian family’s immigration, the pre-Columbian South American presence, and my American latchkey, after school cartoon childhood. All of these stories work together to create a multicomponent self-portrait of what it is like to be a Mestizo Colombian-American hybrid. Mining tidbits from historical research, familial narratives, and cartoon culture, I create surreal stories in clay much in the way Gabriel García Márquez did with words, autobiographically narrating history with its ups and downs, its humor and tears. Making my work is an act of revealing undervalued histories from Latin American, Amerindian and Women of Color. These identities are lost through conquest, migration, and time, then gained through family, culture and exploration, and finally passed down through tradition, preservation, and genetic memory. I have found value in my histories and aim to help preserve my cultures by honoring them through my artwork.”
Katelyn Ledford is an artist living and working in Boston, Massachusetts, but born and bred in the American South. “Ultimately, I seek a mode of painting that can slow down the viewer and make them consider our image-saturated, emotional-whiplash, contemporary reality within the framework of portraiture. In my studio practice, I consider the role of images in shaping the curated portrait of women at large and individually while also reflecting on the complex and often painful reality of what it means to be a woman and artist. Appropriated images are sourced from historical paintings, television shows, social media, and Google fever dreams while contrasting symbols and shapes unfold improvisationally. Resolution and application of images and materials fluctuate from trompe-l’oeil and photorealism to textural impasto and squeezing paint from the tube in order to play with authenticity and truthfulness in the deconstructed portraits. The tone lies in a mix of cynicism, humor, and absurdist logic— like the feeling of sucking on a sour candy, you smile through the pain and pleasure.“
Samantha Joy Groff s a figure painter from rural Pennsylvania raised in a small Mennonite community. She writes about her work: “How does the spirit endure? My paintings capture the duality of hard living and deep yearning a rural female experience. Drawing on my upbringing in a small Mennonite community in Pennsylvania, I use figure paintings to process personal tragedies and unpack the cultural mystique of the Mennonites. I hope to evoke an emotionally fractured existence that doesn’t fit neatly into the dominant narrative of blue-collar women presented in popular media. My practice flirts with Appalachian Fatalism, the cultural mindset of hopelessness in many towns like mine. You work, You toil, You die. There are many real reasons for this attitude to persist within my community. I can’t speak for others, but I’ve endured financial precarity, and the opioid crisis. On an environmental level, I grew up drinking toxic water and smelling the constant waft of the slaughterhouse. It certainly is a bleak and isolated existence. However bleak, the question of spirit remains intact. My goal is to show an overwhelming vibrancy within that disrupts the fatalism. I use neon glowing underpainting to illustrate the pulsing of a divine spirit underneath the picture plane’s realism. Rather than abandoning this part of my identity, I found a crucial opportunity to rework an oversimplified idea of blue-collar women to bring insight and empathy.”
Elizabeth Huey Elizabeth Huey’s panoramas are portraits of the miraculous. Honoring remembrance and reconstruction, she highlights our human capacity to draw invention and intimacy from catastrophe. Born from a substratum of expressive paint, the architectural and figural elements in Huey’s paintings hail from a multiplicity of styles and eras. The spatial arrangements and scale shifts support a hypnagogic sense of seeing things from the inside out. Through historical research and channeling, she delves into energetic complexities and explores the dynamics of mystical connections.
Caroline Absher paints compelling large-scale portraits that gaze deeply into the eyes of the viewer. “These paintings of closeness may feel like a memory of love or a hazy visualization of it. Past or future, they are what we tend to think of when loneliness creeps in. I find it so sweet that the minds natural reflex is to transform hopelessness into images of beauty. Whenever I feel without something, I can’t help but to imagine it in all its glory. Fantasy has a way of keeping people going. So as Hospitality Suite is “an homage to the empty in all of us”, here are two paintings of the byproduct. I have learned they are meant to be thrown on the fire to keep it burning.”
Julie Heffernan is an American painter whose artwork has been described by the writer Rebecca Solnit as “a new kind of history painting” and by The New Yorker as “ironic rococo surrealism with a social-satirical twist.” In her artist statement she writes: “If I’m lucky I’ll unearth a deeper story in the process of painting than the one I started with, one that contains a secret within it, something that takes me to a more complex level of understanding. Secrets occur in painting when imagery gives way to feeling—a certain kind of tactility or odd detail, creating nodal points that conjure awareness of deeper levels of intention. The experience reminds me of the ancient Greek theory of vision, conceived as a kind of effluvium emanating from the pupil that reaches out and touches the object of vision with psychopodia, or mind fingers. This kind of felt touch happens with the recognition of a secret in a painting. We are, all of a sudden, touching inside ourselves, linked for an instant both to our own subconscious experience and to the mind of the artist through its painted corollary. It is not a simple idea of thick or showy paint, but a concentrated moment of visual density where the paint embodies focus and speaks to a deeper intentionality, where we enter the mind through the eyes of the artist and become her. It is an opening”
Paige Turner-Uribe creates soft nostalgic stories. Turner-Uribe writes about her work for Hospitality Suite: “This painting is of a woman I used to see almost daily wandering around town. She would often read or nap on city benches, falling asleep slumped over with her head on her chest. She usually wore a lavender skirt suit with lavender stockings, and sometimes a winter coat and beanie. Though she was always alone, she appeared self-possessed in her solitude. She was striking and beautiful with her white hair and lavender outfit, and I would always spot her in daily scenes. I never spoke with her and I don’t think she ever noticed me, though I saw her dozens of times. The painting touches on the transience of our existence, our solitude and the way we move through one another’s lives, sometimes only through observation.”
Sahana Ramakrishnan works from a Buddhist standpoint of Non-duality, which imagines there to be no true distinction between the individual and the totality of being. “My work is animated by a search for interpretations of the universe that account for its expansiveness and for its endless ability to shape shift. In this search I draw from multiple ancestral traditions, and I am moved by the desire for cultural continuation as well as for an understanding of our deteriorating relationship with the earth. Though I have been primarily educated in the western traditions of painting, my works sits firmly on the shoulders of a broad range of Indian miniature traditions, most significantly of which are tantric lineages that prioritize visualizations and mantras. To me, art is a gateway, a prayer, a site of healing and contemplation. To me, paintings are objects of magic and alchemy. An idea sits at the center of my practice – that the story of separation between “I” and “other”, “life” and “death” is an illusion. Non-duality is a concept that reminds us that perceived “otherness” is actually a form of interdependence. This idea is repeated and reiterated in many forms within my works in parallel with what I struggle with in my life. In my paintings I call upon narratives, figures and symbols that have deep rooted cultural significance and momentum to help me unfurl my contemplations.”
Melanie Daniel creates layered, psychologically and environmentally compelling works. Dreamlike and evocative Daniel’s psychedelic, unnatural palette, dense areas of vibrating pattern, and skewed perspectives underscore the uneasy relationship between the subjects and their environment. The result of nature overwhelming the human presence is reminiscent of Jules de Balincourt, Hernan Bas, or Lisa Yuskavage. Daniel’s big, brash, and strangely beautiful works are cautionary yet hopeful. They show the resilience of nature, as plants and flowers intermingle with graffitied ruins and threaten to overrun the canvas.
Image: Melanie Daniel, "Blue Room," 2022, Oil on canvas, 127 x 127 cm.