Authority is a gun in grandma’s hand. A pile of reckless stories and experiences has landed us in a Trumpian pandemic. The novelty of feeding tropical fish processed cheese from a can on a family vacation fizzles as the empty cans cover the ocean floor with a landfill. A midlife joy ride careens out of control through a stand of quivering trees. A lifeless fox’s still red fur glows in the Subaru headlights. Figures wander disoriented through dreamy grounded landscapes. These new allegorical paintings sparked from distant and recent personal memories, aim to stick joy, remorse, love and sorrow together in sumptuous and scummy surfaces. These paintings are bruised and loved. The colors are lovely, brazen, exhilarating and gross.
This work mostly unfolded through the topsy-turvy months of 2020. It began with a pyroclastic flow of color studies of Mt.Vesuvius, the notorious active volcano that shimmered and spurted until it eventually engulfed and preserved the once lively and decadent Pompeii below. We look back on that travesty through our own scientific goggles cloudy by Trumpian pandemic ash.
In Dante’s inferno, people walk inverted in a downward spiraling malebolge. Our (my) sin may be one of consumer complacency, the malebolges, or “evil ditches”, built on amazon boxes, hand guns, junk food, sports cars, emojis and other disposable content.
As I navigate the adjustments and isolation of living in a pandemic during the punishing Trump era, I find moments of solace and clarity- a brief break from zooming and parenting and teaching and homeschooling and worrying and cleaning and protesting- walking with friends and family through small rural roads near my home in upstate New York. This area is notable for its historic Hudson River school paintings, jammed with squeaky-clean realism, macho colonialism and epically lush views.
Upside Down Walks lean into this romantic idea of the landscape while pushing against its conventions, trading manifest destiny and patriotism for pain and guilt and uncertainty with a bold sprinkling of joy. They have an altered sense of gravity, gratitude for space outdoors and love of comradeship in the tiny world of isolation.
When working from life, I make drawings and take photographs on site in the performative plein air tradition, “Shh… look she’s painting….” Then I return to the studio and recreate altered versions of the scene, where the spaces and saturated colors invert and bleed and disorient. I have spent twenty years painting the landscape as a reflection of cultural values, finding stories in the messes we’ve made and uncanny glimmers in the spaces we shape and traverse.