But Wait! No One is Screaming!
A woman walks with her dog along an orange and yellow path, their shapes united by a turquoise shadow. A canopy of multicolored trees curves, arm-like, overhead, while interesting and benign creatures frolic in and out a dream-like space. A paean to color and light, “Canopy” is the work of artist Stacie Flint, whose one-person show, “A Show of Color,” is on exhibit at Art Society of Kingston (ASK) until September 29.
With flowing compositional lines and boundary-free colors, Flint’s paintings are reminiscent of the expressionist tradition of the past century: visually, “Canopy” recalls Munch’s “The Scream,” only in reverse--as if the owner of the archetypal screaming head had worked through her/his agony with the help of a good, no-nonsense therapist (or several) and found, at last, a hard-won peace. Other works on display are unabashedly non-abstract, depicting people and pets at play or at rest in settings created with pure, out-of-the-tube color. Characters, surrounded by their favorite things, invite the viewer to step into their world. Moreover, “Canopy,” like its riotous companions blazing off the gallery walls, lacks any reference to those horsemen of the modern apocalypse—malaise, anomie, irony, and meaninglessness. There are no screaming heads or empty spaces in Flint’s universe.
At first glance, Flint’s works appear determinedly happy, as if such a state were worthy of expression outside a greeting card factory; the overall impression is one of love and respect for daily life viewed in casual moments. And, because they depict recognizable forms, they invite a “gut” interpretation, rather than the labored, cerebral search for an underlying concept that today’s viewer must undertake (or appear to undertake) when faced with a work of abstraction with no accompanying textual explanation. Flint’s work, on the other hand, shows a refreshing indifference to the modernist’s objection to representation, being rich in implied narratives that resonate with a viewer’s personal experience. These images invite scrutiny and are rewarding because they link us, in an engaging and often humorous manner, to aspects of life we all recognize.
Without question, Flint’s art occupies its own conceptual corner. One must look more than once to grasp the depth of feeling underlying these deceptively simple works of art. A case in point is a triad of paintings of Flint and her family: painting #1, “Our Happy Home,” shows the artist, her husband, and two young sons gathered on a sofa in a closely furnished living room, surrounded by their pets and some favorite things. The two boys are small; the mother, kneeling on the sofa, occupies the highest position among the four, referring to the artist’s perceived importance especially to the children. Composition lines are jumpy and unsettled; a framed picture hanging behind them depicts a haunted house with a witch and a devil- monster in attendance, referring to the relationship energy of the spouses. A candle-lit wall sconce, next to the artist’s head, signifies a higher inspiration. Painting #2, “Our Happy Home Revisited,” shows again the same setting with the artist, her husband, and the now teenaged boys, along with pets and familiar objects. The boys tower over their seated mother, referring to the artist’s humorously perceived importance to the kids. Composition lines are less jumpy. The framed picture with the haunted house is still there, but now is smaller and has less power than in #1. Painting #3, “My Family Portrait 2011”, shows the family as four adults, all the same size, relaxing together on the sofa, and focuses on just the figures. The framed picture of the haunted house appears as a small sliver in painting #2, visible, but devoid of power.
One sees in these portraits a visual record of a particular family’s life stages—one that implies hope and the possibility of gaining a measure of hard-won but true happiness—a theme restated in other ways in the balance of work on display. Such happiness, in Flint’s created world, has weight—as much gravitas as, say, depression, anxiety, or despair. It is seen and felt by the artist as a positive force rather than the mere absence of misery. In Flint’s own words, her paintings represent “a physical actualization of the relationship between my life’s everyday points-of-view with life’s larger creational energy and joy.”
Is Flint’s work worthy of consideration as serious art? Indeed, can any work of art be deemed serious if it deals directly and unashamedly with such “lightweight” subjects as peace, joy, or common contentment? Mainstream art critics tend to think not, expressing this view by ignoring the output of artists whose works embody positive values. One has only to reflect on the horrors of the present and past centuries to understand this strand of criticism. Nonetheless, the demand for novelty persists, even as novelty in art becomes increasingly hard to come by. Perhaps there is an end in sight. Perhaps, in this context, Flint’s descriptive, colorful, and value-rich work can be considered the epitome of novelty, standing on the very cutting edge of post-modern art—in short, concrete expressionism.
Wilda Gallagher, September 2012