Review: Merlin Carpenter, Paint-It-Yourself

Reena Spaulings Fine Art, January 31-March 1, 2020

five of 10 very blank canvases

Let’s first say, the trying task of finding this gallery probably adds to the allure of Reena Spaulings as a space, a downtown second-floor hideaway above a bustling (and I’m going to add delicious) Chinese restaurant. The entrance stairwell, lightless, is accessed by venturing through a gaping door maw above a subway exit. I made friends with a lost Australian filmmaker on her first month of a Visa with an artistic curiosity.

We ascend the stairs together, all the while my friend insisting we must be trespassing as I’m suspecting the feeling of exclusion and threat is most certainly of design and desired by the gallery- an escape room of sorts for gentrific 20-somethings seeking their soul’s calling in “the mystery” of art. At the second floor a statuesque, black-clad gallerina closes the door in my face before we might enter, so I proceed to knock.

Now here is where the arc of this art mystery steadies and declines. We gain access and pass through German speakers drinking seltzer fresh from an-ice filled, over-sized garbage can. We pass through cold, conspicuous stares and anxious glancings of young gathering spectators. I see the elevated gallery, wall to wall with maybe 5 x 5′ blank and pristinely-prepared canvases.


“Paint-It-Yourself” instructs the press release along with maybe 10 introduction-to-philosophy-level paragraphs on the artist’s “oeuvre” sprinkled with thoughts on mirrors, climate change, and politics. It was all pretty self-important.

Low and behold, the Germans and twenty somethings crawl toward the box of oil paints in the center of the space and begin to paint, I can’t shake the notion I’m attending the 11th hour-planned birthday party of an unloved, well-off child. The party has nice dressings, a fancy entryway, a spectacle and activity, but is ridden and heavy from a lack of care or meaning.



I decide to paint rather than continue in the causal “should we or shouldn’t we” on-looker dialogues and social constructions I’m sure Mr. Carpenter claims within which can be found his true intent. It is such an over-explored intent, Merlin, and the shouldn’t is found in you making money from this or making more work of undergrad Foundations critique caliber. I’ve seen your other art, next time, paint it yourself.

Addendum: I will admit, I enjoyed painting for a few minutes-I’m a painter, so I also know you shouldn’t encourage young adults and children in attendance to finger-paint with cadmium red. That’s both a liability issue and a health hazard.

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my frog contribution


Review: Aaron Gilbert, PSYCHIC NOVELLAS

Lyles and King, March 1 – April 7, 2019


There is magical realism when reality in a work slips into reverie. Aaron Gilbert’s Psychic Novellas strobe between unflinching social realism and nightmare.


Like Gothic altarpiece, Neue Sachlichkeit, and George Tooker, careful brush strokes built meticulously, one clipped touch next to or on top of another, riddle the surface with vibrating anxiety, a sometimes obsessive, sometimes hastened application imbuing each painting with schizophrenic, violent energy.


Narrative is the blood of these paintings. It courses within screaming and whispering trauma, abuse, oppression, sex, violence. One story here is not hopeless, the motif of the child present as either ghost, pregnant belly, interior keyboard player, or 3/4th’s regal standing portrait.


The painting I wish was the best is the above image of the artist holding a child, on Gilbert’s head is a crevice moon scar suggesting a healed, gnarly surgery. I wish it was the best because it is so hopeful, but where the artist truly sings is within nightmare, like he has experienced too much of it and become it, like the swirling dead eyes of the people he paints belong only to him.


Christian Rex van Minnen in Conversation with Jacob Hicks



I fell in sort of angry love with the paintings of Christian Rex van Minnen (what a name: a religious predatory dinosaur Dutch Master). This is true art floating through the thick fog of contentless, deskilled, rapidly produced art world uneducated wealthy person chicken feed that saturates and obstructs true voices.  He lobs technical precision into the birthing of sugary monstrosities, articulated insanities, perfectly formed pustule mirrors reflecting rupturing cultural delusions and illnesses no one dares look at but everyone proliferates.


Your paintings are the equivalent of quality production blockbuster movies: technical precisionism rooted in old master practice, totally compelling illusionism; all of this adds up to an uncanny, stomach-turning, semi-computer generated (but with a quattrocento instagram filter) horror that is very time/generation specific. You are Cronenberg without a budget cap and tempted by cgi. How do you relate to cinema and what is your specific kind of grotesque’s aimed societal comment?

I do like movies. Cronenberg, Werner Herzog and David Lynch are my favorite directors. I knew movies way before I knew art so they have naturally had a strong influence on my work. I’ve always loved directors who intentionally aim to destabilize the viewer in a benevolent sort of way. Disturbance is ok, but if it isn’t followed with some heart and good intentions you’re just an asshole.


You know that feeling as a child on Halloween had from consuming too much candy? All of the excitement before in the amassing, the lack of restriction during consumption, the little pings of oncoming sickness, finally the inevitable ache. I feel in your work a deep celebration of that gut sickness and the wildness that leads there. All sorts of floating, metaphysical crystalline sugar confections bloom within your picture planes. What is your relationship to sweets, these mass produced and beautiful little poison pellets we are trained to revere, though they sicken us?

I can identify with that in so far as what you are describing is a commingling of contrasting emotions and feelings. To be completely honest I didn’t realize that they would be almost universally interpreted as candy. That wasn’t my intention, as naive as that may sound. I was mining for a new range of imagery and a technical approach that could increase contrast, both technically and conceptually. These bright, ultra-luminous, transparent, often weightless whimsical objects were the solution.

What is it about the ugly sensation, cankers, cancers, horrors, that so provokes you to your result, and why so much precisionism in its depiction?

I don’t really know. I think that those forms come from noodling the paint. Just making things up as I go, things look distorted, cancerous, bulbous. I drag those images through a division of labor that makes them believable. I like the result! It has certainly led to a lot of interesting imagery and post-rationalizing of concept. But, in the end, it’s fundamental surreal, automatic drawing/painting. I aim for believability rather than representation.


Tell me about your relationship to the Dutch still-life. That golden age was one of excess wealth and so for the first time a wide array of non-religious art appeared. Yours is that but in a cult of death sort of way, an exuberance for rotting fills the religious void.

That too is a result of a confluence of interests. First and foremost, that era produced paintings that I am most visually attracted to. It’s oil painting at it’s zenith. So much of it was about technique and that had a lot to do with the market being detached from the church. Then there’s the issue of legacy. My father is from South Africa, and many generations before that, Flanders. There is some dark history there in the middle. I was raised to think a lot about legacy and atonement and how to right the wrongs of the past. Consequently, I have thought a lot about my connection to Europe and what it means to be an American of European heritage.


Who are your major influences, painting, music, literature, etc…?

Rembrandt, hip hop, Cormac McCarthy, David Lynch, Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Aphex Twin, Bukowski. Those are some that come to mind.

How political is your work–what do artists do during our current climate of American unraveling?

I don’t know. People say that it’s all political right? Let’s go with that. I was in the studio watching it all happen, the election, and it was like that scene in Alien. Seemed like it was going ok then the convulsions and the chest bursting and this fucking shit. I felt both bewildered but also emboldened. This is my work, I’ve been training for this. This is a spiritual war.


How did you start exhibiting with Poulsen? Give me a little of your working/personal history/trajectory that got you from point A to B.

I met Morten the first year I moved to NYC. A couple of the artists there, also friends of mine, told him about my work. He came over to my studio, basically a closet in my apartment, and liked what he saw and then things just took off. He is a force, that Morten Poulsen. Not to be underestimated. I’m very grateful for what he’s done for me and my family.

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

I am making a new body of work for a 4 person show at Postmasters Gallery here in New York in March that I’m really, really excited about. Then preparing for my first solo show with Richard Heller Gallery out in LA late fall. It’s a big year and I’m just excited that I can go into that studio everyday and make work that people are into right now. Very grateful.


Jacob Hicks in Conversation with Alessandro Sicioldr

Oracolo, 2016

Alessandro Sicioldr follows in a long tradition of visionary artists. His works are directed by an informed unconscious, by the Jungian depths of communicative symbol. I discovered it through social media, and have watched in wonder as his pool of active, beautifully haunting imagery changes in content, but never in quality.  Sicioldr employs a luminous visual voice, and so I reached out to discuss his process and motivations.

L’enigma del sogno o il risveglio, 2016

I see in your work a dream language, an undeniable root to Jung’s collective unconscious, an internal human truth in archetype that resonates so loudly with me. Talk about a few of these elements/motifs in your work

*The double, The Tree, The Sphinx, The King, The moon, Water…

It’s always been hard for me to talk about my images, since they speak through a visual language which is ambiguous, sibylline. I come from a scientific background, (I have a degree in computer science) so I am very careful when talking about mind, spirituality, symbolism and topics involving facts that are impossible to prove with rational means. Rules and boundaries are useless when dealing with metaphysics, so I just let my inner world speak without asking questions. These images are important for me and when I think about them I get a particular feeling. They need to be represented and they follow their strange irrational rules. Why do I put an element there, or use that particular color? It is because it should go there, these are the rules of the painting. I don’t think about symbolism because deliberate and intellectual reasoning can spoil the purity of a composition and the result can easily be fake. I recently discovered that a lot, maybe all of my paintings are composed within the rules of the golden section without knowing, I find this incredible but this is how human minds work.


La Soglia, 2016

What does your process of making look like-do you improvise in paint, do you start with a sketch or composition? Do you work primarily from imagination (I suspect), and how does reference play into your procedure?

I do not have a rigid scheme for the conceptual part because art is like love. There isn’t a routine for falling in love, you just do it, you just feel it and your soul is inclined toward that particular thing. I am a compulsive sketcher, I sketch everything and when I feel that something is important I begin the painting process. The painting process is a mix of craftsmanship and improvisation. I use traditional and contemporary means, I aim for the best not for the old fashioned, so if I prepare myself the raw linen it is because I like it more than industrial ones. I have no rules for references, often I paint from imagination because it is hard to find models like a giant bird chariot with a strange head inside moving on roots with heads inside and pulled by sacerdotes wearing red capes in an icy landscape. But I use some photographs and models to help me a little bit. The fact that I have no real reference is the hardest part of my technique, it is easier to work with a model.


Adam’s dream, 2015

Tell me a little bit about your education-who you studied under/major artistic influences…

I am a self taught, as I said before I have a scientific background but I always nurtured a passion for art, for literature. My mother and my father are both people with great culture, plus my father is a painter and he gave me some basis but I’ve never received a technical lesson in my life. I see paintings, I make copies, I study a lot. The problem with many artists is the lack of culture and experience in fields that are not related with art. I think that a creative should devour tons of books, visit museums, and be curious about things that are difficult. My main and unique influence is my inner world, but i have a deep love for the primitive art, the art of ancient civilizations (I live in the land of etruscans) the byzantines, the medieval and oriental art, the Italian and flemish primitives, Piero di Cosimo, Titian, Lotto, Paris Bordone, Bronzino, Parmigianino, symbolism (Kubin, Redon, Moreau, Spilliaert, Khnopff, Klinger, Kobliha), Felix Vallotton, Gauguin, surrealism (mainly Max Ernst, Kay Sage), the first De Chirico and so on… I also like a lot of contemporary artists!


The Well (Salome), 2015

What do you do to pay the bills? What galleries do you show with? Do you have advice for working artists on how to get their work seen?

I sell paintings and drawings to pay the bills, both alone and with galleries (in and outside Italy), I’m still young and I hope to grow and to reach a wider audience. The only advice I could give is: make great paintings. Do not aim for success, that is a consequence. Money is important but if that becomes the main issue there is something wrong and it is better to get a day job. A day job will allow you to be free, that is the most important thing, not career..


La Sibilla, 2016

Do you have any news, projects, or upcoming exhibitions you would like to share?

No news in these months, I am taking a small break from shows and I am focusing on creating new works. I often need a period where I just paint.

Sub Post Tropical Monsters

Tilo Baumgartel, Jacob Hicks, Julius Hoffman, Francesc Ruiz Abad

Curated by Jacob Hicks

The Latin origins of the word monster, monere/monstrum, mean to portend and instruct.  A monster’s instructive function is abundant within the span of Western mythos: do not be, do, go near, or engage.  Interaction with this other is a form of becoming.  Prophetic knowledge gained through forbidden interaction transforms the interactor beyond self-recognition, so the lure of the monstrous is its power to transform.

The monster is all things not yet mastered, and this wildness simultaneously seduces and repulses. To answer this paradox, culture, through transformative contact with the other, consumes what was once wild into established precepts of being.  The monster, though, is an ancient portent revealing the illusion of domination and the limits of human understanding.  Something will always be other, and that otherness will always be monstrous to cultural establishment.

The role of the artist is “other,” so he or she dresses in the skin of the monster.  The artist’s role is to rail against the institutionalization of the human spirit, while teasing and seducing society with the luminous potentialities of moving closer to creative, social, and spiritual freedom.

The included artist’s images exist in the liminal space between transformative and seductive darkness.  Such work is crucial in a time of global unrest in the form of great migrations due to dissatisfactions with “the other,” whom we brutalize because we fear.  The artist’s attraction to the “monster” is the sticky cohesive between their oeuvres, as they paint what we fear.

Julius Hoffman, Welpe, 2011, 150 x 210cm, Acrylic on Canvas
Tilo Baumgartel, Escort, 2008, 161.5 x 138.5 cm, Charcoal on Paper
Francesc Ruiz Abad, Dietrich, 2015, 160 x 120cm, Oil on Canvas
Jacob Hicks, Christ Becomes a Spider, 2014, 36 x 48″, Oil on Panel
Julius Hoffman, Luxor, 2011, 80 x 100cm, Acrylic on Canvas
Tilo Baumgartel, Patron, KGervas Collection
Francesc Ruiz Abad, 2015, 27 x 42cm, Pencil on Paper
Cyborg final
Jacob Hicks, Cyborg, 2015, 16 x14″, Graphite, Oil on Panel

Tilo Baumgartel (Leipzig, 1972) is a seminal painter of the well-known Neue Leipziger Schule.  He has exhibited his work extensively throughout Europe and The United States.,tilo_baumgaertel,45.html

Jacob Hicks (Midland, 1985) is a Brooklyn-based painter.  His work has been exhibited throughout the East Coast and in Texas. Internationally Hicks has shown in Germany, Japan, and Spain. He is a painting assistant for artist Dustin Yellin and a freelance writer.

Julius Hoffman (Göttingen, 1983) is a painter and intermedia artist based in Leipzig, Germany. Hoffman has exhibited his art throughout Europe and Asia, and was a student under Neo Rauch. He is represented by Galerie Kleindienst in Leipzig, Germany.,julius_hofmann,369.html

Francesc Ruiz Abad (Palamos, 1990) is an interdisciplinary Spanish artist whose practice encompasses diverse conceptual project, publication, film, and painting. He has received several national grants, regularly holds lectures in Barcelona, and has exhibited his work internationally.


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
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.

“Playground” A Preview of Buket Savci’s Solo-Exhibition at Olcay Arts in Istanbul

By Jacob Hicks

Secret Garden, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches
Secret Garden, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches

Buket Savci is a Brooklyn-based figurative painter.  Her first solo-show, “Playground,” is opening November 4th at Olcay Art in Istanbul, Turkey.  What follows is a formal and conceptual analysis of her work.

Savci’s large-scale paintings feature breathing and fleshy figurative tumblings of intimacy, tension, and play.  These pieces are photo-realistic psychologies; one can become lost in the mass of close-cropped human mazes, desiring to know how disembodied clusters of extremities (teasing confusions of arm or leg ownership) can appear simultaneously so intimate and yet so jarring.  Piles of patterned covers, comforters, pillows, and sheets dissect forms further; an especially rich amount of painted delicacy is apparent in the textiles.  No intimate detail is left ill-considered; each nook and corner invites, singing a visual ode to Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space.


Warm, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
Warm, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

Passion, whether love or play, is to divest from self and move into other.  It is to extend beyond the internal and to momentarily co-mingle.  The way the artist stages her scenes, which are based on an initial photograph, is a reflection of the fight for the preservation of passing intimacy.  Savci’s formal skills as a painter successfully breath warmth and life in translation from photographic source material to canvas.  This is key to the success of the work; though she is following in the historical tradition of photo-realism, she is also enlivening the “flat eye” of the machine with the purposely indiscreet warmth of painterly addition and decision.  Here a mechanism’s perception is consecrated by an experiential nostalgia.  It is important to remember nostalgia is an edited, abbreviated, and modified construction of chosen reality, but I feel that in Savci’s case, the romanticism and fiction of the image is the purpose-an ideal to seek and dream of and in.   Her authoritative and gentle handle of color, form, and tone transforms a cold mechanical image into one that is a human and burning dream.

Candy Crushed, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches
Candy Crushed, 2013, oil on canvas, 48 x 70 inches

From time to time oddities of color pop up; a man holds a green and white striped popsicle (phallic in nature), or a woman a rainbow lollipop.  A fish balloon, smiling, floats over the scene; these elements are enforcers of the length to which Savci is willing to push a continuation of treasured moments.  The hot fever dream of passion and joy become her “playground,” of which she cleverly identifies in the title of her exhibition.

As Buket’s studio-mate, it has been a pleasure to watch her artistic development and perseverance.  Her work speaks softly but authoritatively, and this is an exhibition not to be missed.

Roommates, 2013, oil on canvas, 66 x 60 inches
Roommates, 2013, oil on canvas, 66 x 60 inches