Friday, March 7, 2008

Kristen Quinn at Catich Gallery

i hopped over to Saint Ambrose University's Catich Gallery last friday after work to check out the opening of Kristen Quinn's sabbatical showing of new paintings. here's the info for all interesting in attending:

"Between Sea and Sky"
Feb. 19 - Mar 21
Catich Gallery
Galvin Fine Arts Center Tuesday - Friday, 1–5 p.m.
(Free and open to the public)

perhaps you've already seen the hybrid conversation-review by pal Steve Banks and someone who i inadvertently, "sort of" called old and too set-in-his-ways, Bruce Carter (i still apologize, Bruce; i hope you understand it was a polite disagreement about the purpose of graduate school). If not, their review is in the River Cities Reader here, so check it out.

first off, this happened to be my first time inside the Catich Gallery. i really enjoyed the space a lot and i plan on submitting some show ideas to the gallery curator throughout the next few years. the classic "white box" model always works quite well for 2D pieces, and heck... that large wall you see upon entering, with the halo of natural light from behind? that's some handsome stuff.

now then, on to the work. Kristen makes moderately large (usually 60 x 72, or so) oil paintings on canvas, and the show has about 10 works on view.

these large, colorful abstractions are quite layered, and thus invite a longer observance time than, say, minimal abstraction. scattered amongst vibrant sections of paint were snippets of recognizable information — quasi fleur de lis shapes, hints of masts of ships, and silhouettes of tree branches. you get the sense that the artist was reading epic poems of travel and/or loss, and that she spent a lot of time outdoors, watching otherworldly sunsets that you get on nights where the dust in the air is just right, and decided to take a natural representation of such colorations and "turn it up to eleven" (forgive me).

and that — the artist's use of color — might be where my slight dislike to this body of work began.

i'm not going to sit and say i personally think Quinn's work is bad, because i don't. it's just that it is simply not my thing. as purposeful as her intent may be, i have a problem with juiced-up color that comes right out of the tube and is placed on the canvas, and that happens to be what i saw in her acidic pinks, chartreuses, and violets — steroid paint, right out of the tube.

i also was unsure about the manner in which she pushes paint. many of the silhouetted shapes seemed to be painted in an unsure manner. i noticed this most on a piece that had a section of roses coming up from the bottom of the composition—her silhouetted "shape-making" looked shaky and a bit clumsy. i would probably have liked the paintings better if the execution was one of a looser, more fluid style. again—i've been there myself, as i make my own work, but... i don't know... these just didn't work in such a pristine place.

one last thing i found out of my personal liking - not bad, but just not my thing - was the silkscreen-ish layering of paint, the "add a layer of a color; let dry; add another layer of another color; let dry, etcetera." i wanted to see colors flow into each other more, on layers that were pushed back in space (you know - literally painted first). i saw it in a few pieces, and they actually ended up being the pieces i liked most. take a look at this painting - note the light area a little off of bottom left. see the blending of color? i liked these types of pieces more because of the mixing and blending of paint as she worked.

all in all i had a good time. these things i am bringing up are quite trite, really. i'm a recent re-transpant to the quad cities, and i hope the established artists i've lost touch with or never met over the last ten years can respect both my positive and negative "reviews" on this site as simple "here's my two cents" pieces with absolutely no ill will at all. our locale needs more support for and buzz about its fine arts community. we're all in this together.

if you happen to go to Kristens show and enjoy it, here are a couple other artists you may enjoy - first, google Philip Taaffe:

and also old chicago chum Molly Briggs:


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