Sunstone, An Exhibition

*Aleah Chapin *Amber Hany *Alan Macdonald *Alannah Farrell *Angela Fraleigh *Angela Gram*Anna Mond *Anthony White *Ben Howe *Brandi Twilley *Buket Savci *Christina Duarte *Corinne Beardsley *Daniel Maidman *Eric Mavko *Eric Wert *Hannah Murray *Heidi Elbers *Jamie Martinez *Jacob Hicks* Jessica Damsky *Jiannan Wu *Kaitlyn Stubbs *Kiley Ames *Kristin Kwan *Margaret McCann *Mariano Ching *Meg Franklin *Melanie Vote *Michelle Doll *Miguel Carter-Fisher *Nehemiah Cisneros *Rob Plater *Susannah Martin *Sui Park *Vini Nascimento *Zachari Logan

Sunstone is a silicate mineral occurring in igneous, a type of rock formed of molten material. Mineral platelet positioning within sunstone creates aventurescence, a phenomena of visual radiance, a sparkle. The platelet orientation and density within influences the perceived hue of the stone, forming a radiant topology.

2020 has been a singularly challenging year. Artists, as always, continue to seek reprieve and triumph over obstacle and tragedy in the expression, translation and embodiment of feeling into object. We continue to make the unseen seen, to manifest form through the transformation of materiality. We give life to the most remote elements of the unconscious. The muse ignites us and is like the metallic glitter scattering through igneous rock. Dazzling, short lived, but birthed by every angle, every new challenge, it is a radiance inside the artist like inside the sunstone that prolongs us, that carries us forward.

Thank you to all who submitted work, more generally, thank you to every artist. The work you do is fundamental and courageous.

Click work to expand.

Vini Naso, The Raven, digital, 30 x 40 in

Website: Vini Nascimento,

Instagram: @vininaso

Anthony White, Exposure Control, pla on panel, 36 x 36 in

Website: Anthony White

Instagram: @culturalcrisis

Jessica Damsky, Carnal Garden, oil on panel, 16 x 12 in

Website: Jessica Damsky

Instagram: @jessicadamsky

Susannah Martin, Bavaria, oil on canvas, 170 x 240 cm

Website: Susannah Martin

Instagram: @susannah_martin

Buket Savci, Brooklyn Happening, oil on canvas, 28 x 46 in

Website: Buket Savci

Instagram: @buketsavci

Zachari Logan, Esta Selva Selvaggia, Installation, Collateral Project of the 58th Venice Biennale Thetis Foundation, pastel on black paper, 59 x 288 in

Website: Zachari Logan

Instagram: @zachari_logan

Angela Gram, Transfigured Night, oil on linen, 50 x 60 in

Website: Angela Gram

Instagram: @angelagramart

Margaret McCann, Freudian Still Life, oil on linen, 24 x 30 in

Website: Margaret McCann

Instagram: @margaret_mccann_art

Meg Franklin, Waterfall Night, velvet, wood, foam, rocks, pins, glue, 16 x 11 x 6 in

Website: Meg Franklin

Instagram: @gabooldra)

Alan Macdonald, The Temple of Reason, oil on linen, 70 x 80 in

Website: Alan Macdonald

Instgram: @alanmacdonaldart

Anna Mond, The Milkmaid, After Vermeer, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 40 cm

Website: Anna Mond

Instagram: @annamond

Hannah Murray, Hearts of Gold, oil on canvas, 46 x 36 in

Website: Hannah Murray

Instagram: @hannah_murray_artist

Kristin Kwan, Tiger, Tiger, oil on panel, 11 x 14 in

Website: Kristin Kwan

Instagram: @kristinkwanart

Eric Mavko, Vulture, mixed media on canvas, 50 x 32 in

Website: Eric Mavko

Instagram: @emavko

Alannah Farrell, Midsummer Night 2nd Street, oil on canvas, 60 x 36 in

Website: Alannah Farrell

Instagram: @alannah.farrell.studio

Kaitlyn Stubbs, September 15, 2020, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in

Website: Kaitlyn Stubbs

Jacob Hicks, Tribute to Toni Morrison, oil on panel, 24 x 32 in

Website: Jacob Hicks

Instagram: @jacob_hicks_studio

Corinne Beardsley, Missing Touch, The Companion Series, video

Website: Corinne Beardsley

Instagram:@corinnebeardsley

Nehemiah Cisneros, Playfully Serious, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 84 in

Website: Nehemiah Cisneros

Instagram: @nehemiahcisneros

Eric Wert, Nimbus, oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in

Website: Eric Wert

Instagram: @ericwert33

Daniel Maidman, Tanya, The Pond, Morning, colored pencil on paper, 15 x 11 in

Instagram: @danielmaidman

Christina Duarte, Venus with Usagi, oil on canvas, 18 x 26 in

Website: Christina Duarte

Instagram: @cmdoart

Rob Plater, Awkward Imitation, ink on paper,  8 x 10 in

Website: Rob Plater

Instagram: @tmoplater

Angela Fraleigh, Our World Swells Like Dawn When the Sun Licks the Water, oil & acrylic on canvas, 90 x 198 in

Website: Angela Fraleigh

Mariano Ching, Float In Rainbow, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 in

Website: ariano Ching

Instagram: @bangawsabaw

Kiley Ames, A Story of Beauty and Blindness, oil on linen, 80 x 50 in

Website: Kiley Ames

Instagram: @Kiley Ames 

Jiannan Wu, Trilogy Ⅱ, Acrylic on resin, wood, 8 x 10 x 3.4 in

Website: Jiannan Wu

Instagram: @jiannan_wu

Heidi Elbers, Swampland, oil on paper, 14 x 11 in

Website: Heidi Elbers

Instagram: @heidielbers

Miguel Carter-Fisher, Aparna Feeding Violet, charcoal on toned paper, 15 x 23 in

Website: Miguel Carter-Fisher

Instagram: @MiguelCFstudio

Melanie Vote, Recumbent, oil on paper on panel, 9 x 12 in

Website: Melanie Vote

Instagram: @melanievotestudio

Brandi Twilley, Summer Morning, oil on canvas, 14 x 26 in

Website: Brandi Twilley

Instagram: @branditwilley

Michelle Doll, Family (MF2 Micro), oil on panel, 10 x 13.25 in

Website: Michelle Doll

Instagram: @michellelynndoll

Sui Park, Keyhole, black cable ties, 59 x 24 x 4.5 (H) in

Website: Sui Park

Instagram: @park.sui

Amber Hany, A Portrait of my Kitchen Window, digital painting, 2100 x 2800 px

Website: Amber Hany

Instagram: @amberhany_art

Ben Howe, Dream, oil on canvas, 122 x 160 cm

Instagram: @benhoweart

Jamie Martinez, Metamorphosing Into an Octopus, paint, spell, marker and scratches on clay, 9 in round

Website: Jamie Martinez

Instagram: @triangulism

Aleah Chapin, Deborah, oil on panel, 20 x 30 in, courtesy of the artist and Flowers Gallery, New York/London/Hong Kong 

Website: Aleah Chapin

Instagram: @aleah_chapin

Review: Willehad Eilers, LA BLAGUE

Galerie Droste, 5 Dec – 19 Dec 2020

DAS SCHWEIN, oil on canvas, 145 x 190 cm

Willehad Eilers or Wayne Horse, the German painter, asks us to participate in la blague-the joke-that is excoriated from asking “what remains when food and other essential goods are always available? When war is only known from the news and you never have to fear for your life? When money and infrastructure are always available?” 

“What remains is your own self-optimization and self-realization. However, the range of what is ‘offered’ as success, happiness or a fulfilled life is relatively small. Thus, not only a general alarming shift of self-related problems can be observed, but also a repetitive and unrealistic representation of life as a single high, as a single party” (text excerpt via Galerie Droste).

Eilers paints this electrifyingly gruesome perpetual party. The work elicits tarts or war head candies, undulating between opulence and disgust, sour and sweet. They are monumentally-scaled, in the vein of the great history paintings. They are surreal conflagrations parallel to German expressionism and its counter Neue Sachlichkeit forbearers who explored their era’s identical fever dreams of deadening excess, the roaring 20’s of the Weimar Republic. It is somehow difficult for us to learn human time is a record on perpetual loop. 

Dreh Dich Nicht Um, oil on canvas, 160 x 240 cm

A fertility trope of woman as rabbit travels through the paintings, represented by the Playboy bunny ears sitting on the various heads of female party-goers. Empires rise and fall like anthills, this is forgotten in the weight of human instinct and hunger. The desire to propagate one’s influence and stake in the future, to revel in the lack of need given to the few who efface it for the many, rules the stretched, broken forms composing these apocalyptic orgies. 

Baby with You, oil on canvas, 52 x 39 cm

The paintings are grandly base and biting, pulling the viewer into a common pit dug of endless surplus, into tornado earthquake zombie hoards of the “well-to-do,” so drunk and empty on account of deadening blackhole enjoyments.

Their is a dangerous pathology that afflicts the global affluent, the hegemony that will not relinquish its power and refuses empathy for those not positioned on top. The obscenely wealthy minority of white males who control the distribution of human resources do not concern themselves with a human communal fate but with their individual comfort and, secondarily, a familial fate. This group has waged a multi-generational war conquering as much of the world’s resources as possible through the widening boundaries of globalized reach, and they have won this war to the detriment of the world, humanity ecologically, and (most ironically) themselves. Morals play no part, truth and honesty play no part, just the basest instinct for more. The distinct and succinct goal of a conqueror is to claim everything for himself, though this subjugates, imprisons, and restrains any hope for change for the majority of humanity.

DER SCHERZ, oil on canvas, 145 x 190 cm

The longing for accumulation, material and control is an incessant human instinct that prevails in the uneducated, fearful and unconscious. Unlike what might be historically perceived, a lack of true education (this excludes an education purchased or performed) is a fundamental feature of the present global aristocracy. Why would an ill-informed hegemon venture to consider empathy when life-long entitlement demonstrates the only necessity is that the world consider him?

Capital He is trapped in his personally sickening fumigation, this thoughtless roach, this image constructed and desired not only poisoning those without, but those within. Notably, the tyrant is profoundly unaware of his own brittleness and stupidity, the decay of his state, exhibit A: Donald Trump, or The General in His Labyrinth, by Gabriel García Márquez, or any number of fumbling or poised dictators or corporate male managers, landlords, or business owners.

Installation View

Eilers applies an accessible and cruel visual language to illustrate all of this, it is an important critique on a sweepingly infirm world and it comes at a crucial time.

Artist portrait: Willehad Eilers/ Wayne Horse

Review: Apostasy by Super A

Thinkspace, December 12-January 2, 2021

“Skeletor” (2020) Acrylic on linen, 20″ × 30″

“The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.”-Oxford Languages

Apostasy, by Dutch artist Super A /Stefan Thelen, is one of the first slated exhibitions at Thinkspace Project’s new gallery.

These images are indebted to the act of wrapping, obfuscating and exposing. The history of art finds perpetual eroticism in forms simultaneously revealed and hidden; excitement pools in the act of almost seeing, in the frustration of quieted revelation. Super A wraps Stefan Thelen (himself) in a duel identity. He, like his art, is both hidden and seen.

“The Itchy & Scratchy Show”(2020) Acrylic on linen, 28″ × 34″

The works are palimpsest shrines, pristine painted illusions to Saturday morning cartoons and adolescence. American pop culture is a ribbon enveloping actuality, or what actuality is boiled down to. For example, The cartoon He-Man’s Skeletor wraps up a skull, Disney’s Big Bad Wolf a true wolf. 

Visual form as we know it in the natural world contains so many kinds of reality: action, emotion, sense, impulse, impression, association. One thing is never one thing. It is the task of the artist to reveal, to peel the proverbial onion of subjectivity aroused by reality. Super A’s act of apostasy is refusing the surface identity prescribed by a culture that equates maturity with the renunciation of itself from myth and metaphor, scrubbing away magic and ceremony and childhood. The paintings are bold and rich, but the repetition of wrapping one “thing” in only one “ribbon” might be a limiting tendency, a minor criticism for a beautifully realized body of work. 

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” (2020), Acrylic on linen, 71″ × 51″

Contemporary America, as I learned it in the suburbs of West Texas, fears the perpetual layers of the real, the depth of infinity sinking and rising from every life and object. It is in this animism one reveals dream to free themselves from the bonds of institution- church and state, god and country. Institutions maintain control by halting personal and cultural evolution. By their very nature they resist change; change demands new order. The integrated self cannot be compartmentalized, the goal of the oppressor is to cut the Möbius strip, the task of the artist is to heal it.

“Fata Morgana” (2020), Acrylic on linen, 32″ × 40″

Jamie Adams in Conversation

by Jacob Hicks

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Niagara Pink Pair, Oil on linen, 60 x 48 inches, 2015

Jamie Adams  creates metaphysical realms of collapsed time and indeterminate gravity punctuated by acidic color and sexuality.  He weaves classicism, the old masters, old Hollywood, disco, nature, and modernism into floating, lucid, beautiful dreamscapes.  I have admired his work since I first ran across it.  I was lucky to engage him in the conversation that follows.

JH:  Where are you in relation to your image?  Are you omnipresent-is the whole image you?  Are you nowhere within? 

JA:  I think images created are ultimately more about the artist than the image represented.  I see my work as psychic portraits or representations of an interior life regardless of the subject.  This is not to say that they mirror the artist completely.  In fact, it is a rather imperfect form of expression like any other; sometimes awkward, frequently revelatory.  My relationship with my work is often conflicted.  I don’t know that I ever consider my works to be finished.  I suppose they can be viewed as either some kind of private entertainment or public confession.  It’s what motivates me to continue making.

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Blue Marilyn, Oil on linen, 78 x 83 inches, 2016

JH:  If you were a character in the space of one of your own paintings 

a.) where would you be… 

JA:  I construct spaces that I wish to inhabit and explore.  They are often reminiscent of places I have been or imagined in a dream.  To give an example, in 2005 I was drawn to Jean Seberg’s bedroom apartment in Jean Luc Godard’s film Breathless. What piqued my interest was how it seemed inaccessible, remote, yet strangely familiar.  I imagined its quality of ambient, north-facing light in this filmic space to be a suitable space for a painter’s studio. Creating the jeannie series of paintings was the outcome, the project lasted seven years from 2005-2012.  Currently I am working on a group of paintings I am calling “Blondie Bubba”.  The impetus for the work is to re-imagine different scenarios from my father’s youth.  I want to preserve what has been lost.

b.) who would you be if not you, if you were maybe under the mask by Marilyn or a beautiful black body, or a Titian-esque statue 

JA:  I empathize with the characters in my paintings. My relationship to them—either viewing them as self or other can fluctuate over time.  As a result they often develop with a certain amount of fluidity.  The paintings generally go through multiple iterations, even when I have made preliminary sketches.  The narrative reveals itself within the process of making as the characters reveal themselves to me — almost like auditioning actors for a play, the characters morph and change, sometimes playing a kind of masquerade in order to find the appropriate role.  I am interested in portraying characters in a state of flux or an indeterminate state of being.  I think it has to do with my interest in conveying a certain kind of psychic dimension and complexity, but I will leave that to the viewer to decide.

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Jeanniebigbed 2, Oil on linen, 84 x 96 inches, 2011

JH:  Titian, Giorgione- I see a lot of Venetian influence-what else-Psychedelic 60’s, melodrama Hollywood 50’s, hip hop, pop culture, internet post-modern floating, deeply understood indirect painting.  Tell me what I’m missing-the meat of your work-the reason for making…

JA:  I grew up disco dancing, singing in quartets, and singing in musicals, so whatever flamboyance or theatricality one might find in my work emanates from that place I suppose.  The Italians come into my sightline most recently. I have been teaching a summer in Florence drawing course now with a colleague and friend Buzz Spector via Washington University in St. Louis where we work as faculty.  Seeing the massive Tintoretto’s at the Scuola di san Rocco remind me of Lucas films…and simple things like the slave’s ribcage at the center of “Miracle of the Slave” has captivated me since I was a boy.

JH:  Who is a contemporary painter you love the work of?

JA:  Lisa Yuskavage’s work was featured earlier this year at the Contemporary Art Museum here in St. Louis. I always read her work as more of a provocation, something like a collision between Precious Moments or Pixar and Penthouse.  But after hearing her talk about her work, I understood them much differently.  I read them as coming much more from a place of vulnerability as well as protest.  They reveal trace of a former self that I was not immediately appreciating.  They quite moving when viewed through the lens of life as an accumulation of experience.  Formally, I think she is a marvelous colorist.  Her images have a strong coherency of light, a color clarity.  They remind me of Tiepolo’s quartet at the Chicago Institute.  Her frequent use of green light is curious to me.  It reminds me of an important aspect to making paintings today. It’s useful, maybe even critical, for the painter to set up certain challenges.  It’s one way to find new territory.  Brilliant greens everyone knows are difficult to manage.  They easily can become overbearing.  It makes me think of things soaking in formaldehyde like Jenny Saville figures (interesting in their conversation with late Renoir…) or Kim Keever dreamscapes (which I love)…but Lisa keeps even this so pleasant and visually enriching, where color passages meander through a range of warms and cools.  Her recent piece “Triptych” (2011) I think is a great example of this on a grand scale.

adams-blondiebubbaandaredporch-90116
Blondie Bubba and the Red Porch, Oil on linen, 96 x 84 inches, 2016

JH:  Do you think Picasso’s vision has been surpassed-he is our time’s Giotto, so who will be the future’s Picasso?

JA:  Philip Guston is someone I look to.  He appropriates from both of these artists and across many genres, and creates profoundly disquieting new form in his late period that is still relevant to contemporary issues–political, social, human. I will say that Giotto’s masterful frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel still speak to this contemporary viewer.  I had occasion to visit Padua and see it again this summer.  His visualization of hell is terrifying, and the use of mixed spatial systems are incredibly inventive conceptions of the co-existence of temporal and eternal realities.  He certainly serves as an important bridge between a more austere Byzantine aesthetic and the grandeur of the Renaissance as a humanist project.  I am most attracted though to Masaccio’s work at the Brancacci Chapel—the cinematic narrative of Tribute Money, his awkwardly beasty bodies in the Expulsion and Baptism panels.  I think Picasso certainly saw this work and assimilated its form in many of his blue period paintings, one being the couple portrayed in “La Vie”.

JH:  What are computer’s doing to our thoughts and visions as artists?

JA:  Probably like most people I have a love-hate relationship to many of the new technologies.  The digital world is collapsing histories, and the smartphone gives me access even more easily, but I am finding it incredibly distracting in the end.  In the past I admit that I have enjoyed watching television for cheesy sit-coms, infotainment and sports—light hearted stuff, but most of it today is simply mind numbing.  Our kids rely a great deal on Snapchat and texting to communicate.  It’s a great form of communication for it’s speed and efficiency.  But like any other form of communication, it has its limitations, and is sorely lacking if used exclusively.….It’s been quite unavoidable for any of us to not be affected by so much of this–the proliferation of ‘screened’ imagery given the power of cinema, the ubiquity of the smartphone camera, etc… For myself it remains quite paradoxical–equally a problem as much as a solution when you think about how you experience life through so many mediated forms…and this is one of the reasons why I utilize collage and allow certain disparities to exist in the work.  The use of visual tropes via film, lens, or print matter to construct my narratives are useful in this way.

I suspect with the advent of the camera people probably lost a great deal of their capacity to visually remember things because the picture could do it for them. With digital media becoming even more pervasive language becomes marginalized, and any expression, as Norman Bryson states, can easily seem after-the-fact.  So it’s important to find a balance.  There is evidence that typing on a laptop keypad for instance is not as effective as actually taking hand written notes for students in the classroom. You can type faster on the computer, access more information, and so on, but comprehension and the ability to utilize information is less.  This is where media forms such as drawing and painting, embodying the trace of touch and sensual materiality, seem suitable conveyers of human experience, desire and loss.

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Jeannistand, Oil on linen, 78 x 83 inches, 2011

JH:  Do you ever work from life or all of your images sourced from other 2-d images?

JA:  I generally use whatever visual information seems necessary at the time…. I often stage still life props or clothing on a mannequin. Lately, I’ve been working more from memory, as well as developing a more elaborate diorama of characters to work from. Regardless of the source material I think it’s important to leave the references behind and develop the painting on its own terms.  It’s my accommodation to wanting to experience and remember things more directly.

JH:  What do waterfalls mean to you-their metaphor you can’t and don’t resist?

JA:  My first encounter with Niagara Falls was as a boy: it was a euphoric experience of both beauty and terror.  I remember being captivated by the spectacle of its scale.  Its raging torrents of water plunging over the edge (roughly 6 million cubic ft. of water go over the crest line of the falls every minute!)— I had a visceral reaction, a fear of falling, of being swept away with this encounter. I felt immediately small and finite in the presence of such a dynamic force of nature.  And I felt like I was in a film.  To this day I am drawn to certain films, especially vintage from a bygone era—Euro-American ‘art’ films, French and American noir, Italian (spaghetti) Westerns and Giallos, etc. I think American melodramas from the 50s  with the oversaturated Technicolor seems an appropriate expression of underlying cultural anxieties.  I chose to focus on a number of films as visual reference for my Niagara series, one being Henry Hathaways’ 1956 American noir film Niagara, starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton, the falls seem to personify this foreboding presence, like a spectre of doom.

Like most painters I have long admired a number of the American Luminist painters: Church, Bierstadt, Moran, etc., for the magical qualities found in their grand portrayals of Niagara Falls, and the American landscape more broadly. These large format paintings were meant to serve, in part, as propaganda, the new masterpieces, created as an expression of national identity and the country’s manifest destiny. They seem to prefigure the cinematic impulse, to elicit an expansive, all encompassing visual experience.  I want to see contemporary paintings continue to perform this function.

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Bride Falls, Pink Pants, Soggy Socks, Oil on Linen, 84 x 96 inches, 2016

JA:  Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions you would like to talk about and share?

JA:  Currently, I have a number of paintings in an exhibition for the month of September titled “Porch and a Vista” at Zolla Lieberman Gallery in Chicago.  The show’s title and much of the work has been inspired by Pierre Bonnard’s painting “Earthly Paradise” (1916-20), located at the The Art Institute of Chicago Museum.  Bonnard’s piece likely references the severe devastation of Europe following World War 1 (by way of William Morris’ epic poem) and utopian dreams.

Jane LaFarge Hamill in Conversation with Jacob Hicks

Jane LaFarge Hamill and I met when I invited her to participate in a curation project at the now liquidated Lounge Underground Artist Collective.  I distinctly remember unwrapping the first of two small paintings she delivered to the space; I was taken back in the revelation of the image.  A delicately realized portrait (possibly referencing 19th century French Academic practice) sat submerged in an asphalt darkness.  The visage was punctuated, vibrated, violated by a registry of palatially desicive palate knife gestures- a violence constructed of deeply saturate hue.  The aura of this thing hit me, like I was holding something living.  I realized what I was holding was consequential, maybe very important, and I held it much more carefully.  I later realized what I experienced was the aura I seek in all art, that all true art must contain and share this- that presence that can only be felt before the object itself and not through photography or any sort of reproduction.

What follows is a discussion with Jane about her work, which is continually growing stronger.  I say with no lack of consideration that Jane is an immense and gifted artist, and I’m honored to watch her progression.

Bringing Down the House, oil on panel, 2015
Bringing Down the House, oil on panel, 2015

Jacob Hicks: What does a face mean and what does the absence of a face mean?

Jane Lafarge Hamill: There’s no way to tell a person’s character by looking at their face. But of course we all look for clues of it in expression, for physicality that communicates more truthfully than what we say- and that’s part of what I’m interested in representing. It’s about what clues to keep in, and what to leave absent.

I prefer to think of what I’m painting as a head, not the face. It’s important for me to try to bring out what’s behind the face- to break down and pull apart the facade just enough that the interior bits- the rich parts, can come out. I’ll borrow Nicola Tyson’s term ‘psycho-figuration’ for the kind of painting that I’m making.

Solvi, oil on panel, 2015
Solvi, oil on panel, 2015

JH: Your paintings ebb between so many dualities- continuity and dissolution, presence and absence, matter and space, anger and passivity, ghost and flesh, death and vitality, abstraction and true form, the ancient and the modern. Why is it important to express these borderlines, how do you do it? Tell me about your process of making…

JLH: The borderlines are important because that’s where you’re pushing and pulling between states of static. Static is quite a boring and debilitating space; it’s where we get comfortable and stop growing. It’s on the edges between the dualities you mention- where the discussions are.

And the process…. well, it changes, because I want to do something new every time.  Which I guess is pretty weird for me to say, because I’ve been painting the same subject on the same scale for 2 years now! But the improvisation in brushwork, and changes in what the subject is saying, move each painting beyond the previous.

Fuck Salad, oil on panel, 2015
Fuck Salad, oil on panel, 2015

JH: To me your paintings are expressions of fragmentations of selfhood visiting/haunting you.  Do you find the same expressions manifesting over and over-are their personas or states that are repeated in the history of your works?

JLH: It would take me some serious time with a psychologist to figure out what fragments of selfhood keep haunting my work! As much as we have to be accountable for our work as artists, much of the time you can’t make good work while being completely aware of it’s meaning. That comes later. We explain ourselves to ourselves. But I’m way too close to the paintings to be able to step back right now farther than a few feet- it may ruin the whole progression. Not to say I don’t walk up to my studio looking at the gravel thinking: so what the hell am I painting about today? Which I do, every time. 

Portrait of Humans, oil on panel, 2015
Portrait of Humans, oil on panel, 2015

JH: Who is your favorite dead and gone painter, who is a contemporary painter whose work is interesting? Favorite movie? Director? Musician? Time period? Artist?

JLH: This question reminds me of those articles in women’s magazines that asks someone what’s in her purse….

So- dead (but not gone) painter is my absolute favorite painter- Euan Uglow. I was introduced to his work while studying at the Slade in 2001 just after he died. He’s why I became a painter. Seeing his work is a bit like going to church. It’s a touchstone.

My favorite contemporary painter for the last 3 years, has been Peter Krauskompf. Please check him out if you don’t already know his work.

And for movies, I’ll always go back to Emir Kusturica’s Underground- particularly the very last finale scene.

For a favorite time period, I’ll define favorite by most interest in? 1919-1933 Weimar Germany. I’ve always been interested in what happened during this short, unstable, chaotic, but politically, intellectually, and artistically creative time between wars. Wild times. I would have liked a few nights out on the town in 1920s Berlin, taken in a Paul Klee lecture at the Bauhaus, talk to Adorno, you know…

Favorite Music- changes daily. It’s schizophrenic.

John Lafarge in Tahiti
John Lafarge in Fiji

JH: What is the influence of the artist John Lafarge-your great great grandfather-on your art?

JLH: I think the influence of my great great grandfather’s art was actually mostly important as an influence on my becoming an artist.

Seeing his work hung on the MET walls as a kid, made it seem normal that people you might even be personally connected to could have their work in museums. The human quality in that- understanding at a young age that all those pieces of great art were made by actual, real, normal people, was a lesson.

Yes, John LaFarge was best known for his stained glass work, but he was a remarkably versatile artist, and it was during a show of his paintings at Yale a few years ago that I felt a deeper connection to his work; on top of my familial pride to him as a man. The Yale show concentrated on his travels throughout the South Pacific begun in 1890. (He was painting in Tahiti before Gauguin, and their versions of the same places are complete contrasts.) There are 12 surviving sketch books from those South Seas travels that contain landscape and figurative drawings, but also copious notes on culture and language… in very tiny lettering. The photo I’m including is of John LaFarge (right) and his travel companion Henry Adams (left) in Fiji. Hard to see, but I inherited his nose.

It’s a practice that seems to be following in the family- my husband Jason Bereswill is also a travel painter, documenting time and place with sketches wherever we go. He does the same as LaFarge, coming back to the studio to flesh field work into larger paintings. Although the two differ in that Jason paints a bit of human folly/clumsiness within the majestic natural landscape, and LaFarge was more romantic with his graceful figures working with nature.

Vagabond, oil on panel, 2015
Vagabond, oil on panel, 2015

JH: Do you have any upcoming or current exhibitions or projects you would like to share?

JLH: As I’m writing this I just had a show come down. And now I’m thankfully working quietly on a new series in my studio. My new studio just got built on our farm, so I’m breaking it in and getting used to the space. It’s amazing how important all of the little tweaks are- like the warmth of the lighting for painting at night. Coming up this Spring, I’ll be in LA on an artist residency I was awarded at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica. Road trip!

Lexicon Infernali at Stephen Romano Gallery

September 3rd – October 25th 2015

By Kim Power

Aficionado of the esoteric and champion of the outsider art aesthetic, Stephen Romano has reopened his gallery in Bushwick with an invitation to those of curious mind to peruse and ponder. With the intent of displaying what he describes as, “metaphorically speaking, entries into a fictitious lexicon,” Romano has curated an eclectic assemblage of painting, photography, antiquarian books and objet d’art, inspired by the Dictionnaire Infernal (1863), a French dictionary of demons published by J. Collin De Plancy which includes a set of 69 illustrations created by M. L. Breton, seen on display front and center in the gallery. Loosely structured with the idea of creating a dialogue between the artworks that is not necessarily linear, we are given the impression of entering a mystical and psychologically complex wunderkammer.

Shawn Thornton, Brahmastra for a New Age (UFO/TimeMachine), oil on panel, 27 x 9 1/2 inches, 2013
Shawn Thornton, Brahmastra for a New Age (UFO/TimeMachine), oil on panel, 27 x 9 1/2 inches, 2013

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Stephanie Lucas, Welcome, acrylic on canvas, 3 1/8 x 21 3/4 inch

If the devil is in the details then welcome to his playground. There is plenty to discover in the highly complex visionary worlds of Shawn Thornton and Stephanie Lucas. Thorton’s Brahmastra for A New Age (UFO/Time Machine) appears, at first, to be a very colorful example of an integrated circuit with thin lines connecting hieroglyphic symbols. A winged saint seems to be manning the helm of a penis-shaped vessel and one almost expects it to move forward with kinetic energy. Lucas’s Welcome is no less frenetic but grows more organically in a Gaugin-like jungle populated by monkey figures and fantastic creatures dancing, hiding and playing in a celebratory tapestry of paint.

William Mortensen, Mark of the Borgia, Silver Print, Courtesy of The Museum of Everything, 10 x 13 inches, 1926
William Mortensen, Mark of the Borgia, Silver Print, Courtesy of The Museum of Everything, 10 x 13 inches, 1926

Romano’s ongoing fascination with William Mortensen’s photos is represented by Mark of the Borgia, portraying the quasi-religious imagery of a woman and man tied to a stake just outside of a distant village. Its presence might seem out of place unless you are familiar with Mortensen’s other occult imagery. His work was a large influence on the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey.

A. Fiorello, Budgets Measure the Will to Kill, painted, carved plaster 19 x 20 2/4, c. 1960-1980
A. Fiorello, Budgets Measure the Will to Kill, painted, carved plaster 19 x 20 2/4, c. 1960-1980

The sacrificial female figure is represented again in A.Fiorello’s Budgets Measure the Will To Kill, a hand-painted plaster relief that Romano acquired for his collection. Nothing is known of this artist beyond the work he has left behind. A wild-eyed fire-breathing dragon is seen feasting on human flesh while the skull of Lady Liberty peaks behind his scales. Scratched into the perimeter are a series of phrases, “At the dragons well; we need a world liberation front; budgets measure the will to kill; the right to arm is the right to kill; arms fire; freedom to kill arms the world,” in mantra-like repetition.

David Molesky, Acteon, oil on canvas, 18 x 25 inches, 2015
David Molesky, Acteon, oil on canvas, 18 x 25 inches, 2015

Moving on in this panoply of visions, we find Acteon painted by David Molesky. According to Greek myth, Acteon was a hunter who, upon seeing Artemis bathing naked, was turned into a stag and hunted down by his own dogs. Molesky portrays the scene at the point of capture before the final metamorphosis is complete. In some ways it can be seen as a less dynamic, pared down version of Paul de Vos’s 17th century Stag Hunt and speaks to a very primal urge for survival.

Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature I, acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2015
Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature I, acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel, 16 x 20 inches, 2015

Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature II, acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel 16 x 20 inches, 2015
Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature II, acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel 16 x 20 inches, 2015

Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature III, , acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel 16 x 20 inches, 2015
Elizabeth Shupe, Beautiful Creature III, , acrylic, oil, and mixed media on panel 16 x 20 inches, 2015

Elizabeth Shupe displays the spoils of such a victory with a triptych (Beautiful Creature I, II, and III) of resin coated acrylic paintings portraying a ghostly trophy rabbit and a deer head which peer at us with double pink eyes. The body of a dead bird perches stiffly on the silhouette of a flower filled hand. Each creature is pierced by the symbol of an arrow and adorned with pink paint decorated with reproductions of 19th century botanic wallpaper designs. The words “But I love you, but I love you, good thing,” and “So beautiful, so beautiful my dear,” are written in scrawled writing implying a valentine from cupid that has gone badly wrong.

Cendrine Rovini, Kali, mixed media on paper mounted on board, 15 1/4 x 20, 2015
Cendrine Rovini, Kali, mixed media on paper mounted on board, 15 1/4 x 20, 2015

This theme of sweet innocence gone astray is carried over in Cendrine Rovini’s Kali in which she portrays the Indian deity as through the body of a four-armed child, waving a knife with red stained hands and mouth as she sits on the image of a man while holding the head of another in one of her four hands. It is as if traditional Indian artistic convention conspired with Balthus and Nicoletta Ceccoli.

Caitlin Karolczak, Unspoken, oil on board, 17 x 21 1/2 inches, 2015
Caitlin Karolczak, Unspoken, oil on board, 17 x 21 1/2 inches, 2015

The theme of the possessed or supernatural innocent accentuates the uncanny as in the pallid young girl in Caitlin Karolczak’s Unspoken. Her vacant stare has echoes of the character Wednesday in The Adam’s Family or a post-mortem Victorian portrait subject, as she gazes eerily out from a crimson-curtained booth, a large plaque pendent of an ear resting on her tunic, unexplained and emblematic.

Rithka Merchant, Luna Tabulatorium, Syzygy, gouache and ink on paper, 27.5” x 20”, 2015
Rithka Merchant, Luna Tabulatorium, Syzygy, gouache and ink on paper, 27.5” x 20”, 2015

Almost as a panacea but no less mysterious, Rithka Merchant’s Luna Tabulatorium, lives amongst these mythic and maligned creatures, protected by the walls of a separate room, Merchant’s gouache and ink series of fifteen drawings embody a personal mythology drawn from various cultures all linked by the symbol of the moon. Color and format similarities to Navajo sand paintings reinforces the sense of ritual imbued in these works, as does the carefully folded pleats that are impressed in the paper, giving it a feeling of a precious document or map. One wishes to be witness to the implied ceremony.

Pandora’s box and all it’s contents seem to have been emptied in this wide reaching exhibit of over forty artists. Here, I have given you only a finite view of the plethora of works represented in this animalarium of strange and fantastic creatures that represent primitive ancient and personal psychological beliefs.  In keeping with the definition of outsider art, the works are indeed out of the mainstream of the art world and its institutions. Others simply embody a sort of idealism of the esoteric. All are chosen as an encyclopedic compendium of imagery guaranteed to arouse the curiosity of both the connoisseur and the uninitiated.

Artist Interview with Holly Ann Scoggins

By Jacob Hicks

Light from its Load the Spirit Flies, oil on canvas

  Holly Ann Scoggins is a figurative painter and professor at Polk State College in Florida. The viewer’s of her art peer through lattices of patterned textiles on the picture plane’s surface (like vines and underbrush in a dense forest) that tangle, reveal or obfuscate female portraiture and rural narratives set in the American South.  Scoggins was raised in North Carolina, whose culture plays a continuous and significant role in her painting.  The sense of location, I think, is so defined in the narrative works that imagined humidity might raise beads of sweat on the forehead of the audience. Her work is executed quickly, but with a sophisticated emotional and formal precision.  I was lucky to talk with the artist about her paintings; our discussion follows.

JH: You grew up in the deep south, to me your paintings are effuse with the weight of that cultural history.  Speak a little about how your origins feed your art.

HAS: Old Graveyards, magnolia trees, abandoned homes, lace curtains, stoic women, trailer parks, dirt roads, fake flowers, church pews… these are the images that have stuck with me throughout my southern upbringing. I guess you could call me a Dark Romantic in a sense. Like many southerners, you are unknowingly haunted by your own landscape. I was raised in Church and taught by example about southern “femininity.’ This concept is unveiled on Easter when you show up in your pretty church dress…..you know that your true femininity (identity) lies somewhere in-between working yourself to death, respecting those around you, and submitting to God.

Graveyards have always been a source of ambivalence for me- loving the aesthetics but disliking the morbidity, knowing this world is temporal yet trying to make it beautiful. I am convinced there is an unsafe romance with death for some southerners; at least this is my experience. My artwork is unabashedly inspired by the spiritual and visual components of my southern history, as well as the power of the female form.

Mary Elizabeth Quigley, Oil on canvas
Mary Elizabeth Quigley, Oil on canvas

JH: Favorite painter who is dead, favorite painter who is alive (and why?)…

HAS: Hands down Vuillard, I call him the pixilated prince of painting. It’s as if you squinted and the world flashed before you and you capture the emotion of that moment. A sudden silhouetted experience of figures in light, shadow, and muted color. The economy of his brushstrokes leaves me in lust for the rest of the story. There is a beautiful mystery to his work that I will never quite understand, but always respect and wish to emulate. I am particularly interested in his work because his female figures are often entangled in patterns of the time.

A contemporary artist I currently admire is not a painter, but a sculptor Petah Coyne. She sculpts the way I wish to paint. The simplicity of imagery and sublime mood captivate me and break my heart at the same time. I wish to build a room of her work and live in it.

JH: Your subjects are generally females shrouded in a layer of textile intricacies that form a sort of metaphysical veil.  These intricacies both hold your figures together and allow them to dissolve. Expand on this metaphor-it feels like the state of being female, human, saddened, fragmented-am I on the right track?

HAS: Intricate textiles symbolize many opposing concepts. The act of making these items can be laborious and tedious work yet it represents beauty and idealized femininity. Lace as a tangible item ties the greatest female monarch to a prostitute. Lace and pattern florals wrapping over female skin become the unifier visually and metaphorically. My figures often have eyes closed and are internally reflective. I want them intriguing, fragmented, distant, protected, shrouded, pensive, silently implied.  My figures present an “ In the world but not of the world” idea. The visual concept of dissolving, veiling, and layering speaks about simultaneous struggle and assurance that there is something greater to hold onto no matter what the circumstance.

Melissa, oil on canvas
Melissa, oil on canvas

JH: As a professor of art, how does teaching inform your practice?

HAS: Teaching is a constant renewal of the foundations of art, and it often purifies my motives for making art. My students teach me how to simplify in so many ways.

What is a rectangle but a white space for an illusion to be created? The fundamentals of design are invaluable. Everyday I teach design students shapes, lines, colors, patterns, textures, and everyday it re-informs me of the simple things you can do with format and white space.

Every image within that rectangle stems from personal background and experience. But, as complex as the human existence is, the artist chooses what portions of their lives to expose, selectively choosing what subjects to place inside. A trail of paintings is a secondary road in an artist’s life that (in my case) makes you observe, memorialize, and ponder your own mortality.

JH: Do you think a formal education in the arts is expansive or subtractive to the experience of making?

HAS: Formal education in the arts has been expansive for me personally. As a first generation graduate, my education has been invaluable and I would not mind being a professional student for the remainder of my life. However, there comes a point for each art student where they can fall into the pit of consuming themselves with other artist’s/philosopher’s theories and concerns rather than their own. If an artist gets so far as to forget why they initially picked up a paintbrush, they have missed the mark.  I think of what CS Lewis wrote in the Pilgrims Regress about the Landlord. “We have it right in front of us the whole time, we just don’t know what to do with it and who to believe!”

So often contemporary art becomes detached and dry; no human touch or influence is evident. This is when it becomes subtractive. The big picture is that we are human beings creating objects and items with no inherent value but with immense cultural importance. Authenticity is priceless!

Called Hence by Early Doom How Sweet a Flower in Paradise Bloom, oil on canvas
Called Hence by Early Doom How Sweet a Flower in Paradise Bloom, oil on canvas

JH: In a very poignant series, you painted textile veils over the portraits of murdered women, some famous, some anonymous, and I know the process was research-intensive.  Did you feel bonded to these women? Do you re-victimize them through your work?

HAS: These paintings are a memorialization rather than a victimization. I work out my own fears and questions through the act of painting while drawing attention to their stories. The series “ When a rose speaks to the grave” consists of a series of portraits of women that are as equally individual as they are self-portraits. I feel bonded to their story. In these artworks, I separate the viewer from the viewed and the subject is no longer vulnerable.

The writer Julia Kristeva states “the transcendence of death through art leads to a rebirth, in returning, through the event of death, towards that which produces its break; in exporting semiotic mobility across the border on which the symbolic is established, the artist sketches out a kind of second birth.”

Lace is a fabric that has symbolically stood at a gap. In one regard lace is fragile. It is delicate and used for mourning. On the other hand it is sexual and commercial.  In contemporary culture, a veil or “ Burka” is seen as an object of female repression. The lace works as a shroud in my paintings protecting and covering the woman’s face. But why the spaces between the threads if the fabric is meant to cover?  The viewer is still able to see her gaze through the veil. In the book “Over Her Dead Body,” Elizabeth Bronfen wrote that depicting a deceased woman in an artwork is a “displaced representation of the viewer’s own mortality….the knowledge that the image is inanimate and a belief that a gaze can animate the portrait and resurrect her absent body, but above all the possible substitutions of the dead woman’s image for your own”

Banaz, oil on canvas
Banaz, oil on canvas

JH: Who are some of your inspirations?

HAS: My recent paintings are partially inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gillman- the short story The Yellow Wallpaper. It’s a Gothic horror tale, character study, and exquisite commentary on women’s rights.

Each painting is a painting of a young woman wrapped in floral pattern-work.  They show a constant flux between light and shadow shapes. I am using light as a metaphor to depict an internal spiritual dissonance. Informed some by the work of Francesca Woodward, patterns run across the camouflaged flesh blending in and out of the mimicked backdrop I have created. In contrast to the murder series, I am now painting the young women in my life, getting to better know them in the process and applying a pattern as I formally see fit. The patterns begin infiltrating the skin, blurring the lines between the viewer and the subject.

Thoughts on Repetition, War, and Art: “To err is human, to persist is of the devil.”

By Jacob Hicks

History is mythology: a construction.  To reflect on time is to devolve the infinite dimensionality of reality into a one track linear narrative.  My memories alone are fabrications enough; they are directed by my subjectivity and are forever limited next to the expansiveness of phenomenological actuality.  History is this kind of hallucination multiplied exponentially; it is the multi-generational co-mingling of subjective interpretation of event, and the subjective interpreters are the conquerers and hierarchical dominators.  The dominate power structure hallucinates our history for us, and we cling to non-truths doggedly. The conflicts we pursue and repeat intra-culturally are based on the fever dreams/hallucinations of our dominate power structures.

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They are simulacra-copies and repetitions of an unreal origin.  The conflicts are not real so how can they resolve? In the 21st century we are fighting a cold war, a border war, a race war, a gender war, a war over the holy-land. These conflicts are cyclical, seemingly unresolvable, and repetitious beyond measure. 

Dick Cheney

I believe that like Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion(1), wherein which a patient unconsciously repeats behaviors caused by unconquered neuroses in an attempt to face again and defeat the point of psychological disruption, man’s collective unconscious causes a communal repetition of original conflict that parallels Freud’s theory of individual compulsion. So, cultural conflicts are based on the created histories decided by those on top of our hierarchies.  The conflicts repeat in a collective unconscious push toward resolution.  Repetition compulsion can only be resolved through manifesting the origins of the damaging conflicts within the conscious mind.  The origins of our damaging conflicts are abusive power structures that need to be dissolved and/or restructured. Resolution can be sought only through a cultural realization of the unreality of linear history.

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I long for the stability of the repetitious and I am not alone in this.  I go to the same places, eat the same foods, look in the same directions, have the same conversations, on and on. I make the unfamiliar familiar through repetition.  My mirror neurons allow me to imitate how I see others act.  I feel in my body (nerve cells fire) when I witness human action. My physicality is the repetition of my species for our whole biological existence. My thought patterns are formed by this repetitious biological structure.  I am the architecture of an objective history of repetition.

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Eukaryote(cells with organelles and a nucleus) undergoing replication multiplication, also known as mitosis

Art is formed through a cultural and unconscious repetition.  When an artist lands upon an original formal language, a resonant visual analog of a deeply rooted archetype, that vision is repeated in a directly mimicked formal visual language ad-nauseaum due to the human pleasure and basic comfort gained from the act of mirroring. Like a biological system, particular innovators and technologies mutate the set formal structure within which the speaking archetype is depicted. Dogma and political structure also put force and strain upon this type of cultural evolution.

Rogier Van Der Weyden’s Deposition, 1435
Rogier Van Der Weyden’s Deposition, 1435

Rogier Van Der Weyden’s “The Deposition of Christ,” was copied ad-nauseam after its spark of genius lit fire to the imaginations of the 15th century Flemish circle of artists.  It is perhaps one of the most recreated and influential Christian paintings in all of art history.  Like a great jazz standard or a classical piece of music, the work’s content evolves from artist to artist, it is muted, manipulated, and re-birthed continuously, but the pleasure of the repetition of its core composition resounds.  Repetition penetrates its immediate structure, for each figure there is another forming an expanding symmetry.

Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, The Descent From the Cross
Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, The Descent From the Cross

Unknown Flemish Master, The Deposition (active 1470s in Brussels)
Unknown Flemish Master, The Deposition (active 1470s in Brussels)

So what kind of conclusion can be drawn when our inescapable and pronounced urge to do, be, make and act exactly the same again and again and again blooms conflict and war right next to art and culture?  This repetition is in our genes, our biology, our planet, our psychology; how could or should this bubble burst, will it or how laughably and clearly wont it?  We are wheels, cogs in a machine, like Islamic geometric prayer patterns creating the illusion of movement in the eyes of one meditating on us.  Like the retold story, the end can forever began again.

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1.The Repetition Compulsion. To paraphrase Sigmund Freud’s 1914 work, “Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through,” a patient unconsciously repeats behaviors caused by unconquered neuroses, yet these behaviors fly in the face of the pleasure principle, the most fundamental of human motivations.  This confounded Freud and lead him to formulate “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” in which he introduced concepts of the death drive.  He also theorized that behavior repetition was the psyche’s longing to confront again the situation that scarred it in an attempt to overcome and heal. The psychoanalyst believes this can only be accomplished by making conscious within the patient the event of scarring activity from which the neurosis developed.