Friday, January 22, 2021

After the Tempest


The death of painting was predicted a long time ago, when photography was born. Since then, visual art has flourished and controversies about abstract art are now history. Installations, videos, performances, are multiplying. Meanwhile, figurative painters too often are ignored by the art scene, at the exception of a few stars. They represent a whole gamut of styles from realism to impressionism and everything in between, and beyond. One of these artists,  Kathryn Keller is presently showing some of her recent works for Beautiful Isolation, the latest exhibition at LeMieux Galleries.  

Each gallery has a unique lay-out and walking in LeMieux for my monthly tour, I look to the right to find the show's title above the display of a major piece, and walk to the left to see the works from the featured artist. This time, I was drawn to three oil paintings aligned on the wall. Fallen trees occupy the whole foreground in the first one, and leave little space for a blue sky and a lush vegetation in the two others. The post-hurricane Laura scenes sum up the disaster better than words. Walking back and forth, they become alive, the trees shimmering in the sunlight. A closer look at the canvas reveals delicate touches of white paint on the dark trunks for the effect. From her outdoor studio the artist reflects on life, resilience, and connects with nature to alleviate her grief following the disaster. 

Painting indoor, she chooses watercolor still lifes to share more intimate scenes. The object (lipstick, scissors, bottle...) reaches a new status under the eye of the artist. During isolation, mundane tasks become important rituals and domestic life fills our world. She depicts bliss in Bleakhouse 11.17.19, 2020, a composition featuring a living room with fireplace, dog, books about her favorite artists Milton Avery and Winslow Homer, revealing her sanctuary in the time of pandemic.  

For her first exhibition at LeMieux Galleries, the sixty-eight-year old artist selected a dozen pieces to reflect upon the recent disasters' impact on nature and our lives. While terms like plein air painting, figurative, watercolors, still lifes, can sound old-fashioned, they relate to artistic ways of expression that have never been out of fashion.

The paintings convey an inner tranquility, a permanence that is soothing, especially in times of turmoil.



 photograph by the author

"Aftermath Hurricane Laura 10.17.20", 2020

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