Monday, October 20, 2008

Paula Wilson's Stained Glass Ceiling at Bellwether

 For the past week and a half, I've been wracking my brain on how I will write this post on artist Paula Wilson's first ever solo exhibition at Bellwether Gallery, The Stained Glass Ceiling. Part of my problem with writing this review is that I'm not sure that I CAN pull everything together to tell readers just what this show is all about, for the artist seems to throw EVERYTHING at us-- from the show's title itself, to the works' multitudinous mixed media makeup, there's just so MUCH there. And it's not just visually stunning imagery at play, but also craftsmanship, with a message to match, that I don't know if I can do it justice. But let me put it this way, this just might be the best exhibit I've ever seen because of its complete coverage.

Wilson's imagery evokes the feminine in all its facets. In Tomorrow's Tomorrow, pictured above, a young woman frolics about in sunbathed light while holding an umbrella, not unlike the Morton's salt girl. You feel her joy, a woman that abounds with life. Her skyward smile says it all. the refracted light pouring through the stained glass window lights the bouquet still life on the table. For not only is she blossoming into womanhood, but so, too, is the mixed bouquet. I also can't help but notice the beautiful makeup of this work-- a combination of oil, spray paint, and paper collage, seemingly invoking the wondrous florals of Van Huysum himself.

Below, the luscious work Tripped. Like a cork popping from a champagne bottle or a happy ending, the top has blown. Perhaps it signifies the woman being freed from her entrapments. I read this work more as "Trapped" than Tripped, evoking more of a genie in a bottle element. If you rub her the right way, will she grant your wish?

Also of note is the similarity between the society lady clad in pink and the legendary Fragonard work, The Swing, below. For in each case the subject seems to take delight in her sexuality, teasing us with a desire that can never be fully realized, yet is also quite constrained by outside forces. Throughout this exhibit I felt Wilson references the floral masters-- VanHuysum, for instance-- or the stained glass works of LaFarge, or in this case, the soft underpainting techniques of Fragonard. But the floral elements are not merely for eye candy, but represent that which makes a woman a woman.

In Wilson's case, she's well on her way to making her own history as an artist. I highly recommend checking out the Bellwether site below to see more examples of this wondrous exhibition. The show runs through November 15th.


Anonymous said...

I saw the show as well and you captured my feelings with some very well written words.

Sunil said...

Thanks for bringing this up... I am planning on going tomorrow.