Cloud nine

Jay Gaskill Triple Stacked Mitsubishi 2011

Jay Gaskill, Triple Stacked Mitsubishi, 2011

It’s a Monday morning and I’ve made my list for the week. Every task has its number and the calendars are synced. I’m set for smooth sailing, for a Monday I’m on cloud nine. Lots to do, but manageable for an A+ manager.

Suddenly, I’m quite irritated at the items defying “the List”. Silent, important things.  “You-can’t-check-the-box” things. Be a good parent. Be a decent spouse. Be content. Be Relaxed.

See exhibit A, this painting by Jay Gaskill. Isn’t there supreme order here? I look at the shapes and say, “my they are quite evenly spaced and symmetrical, bravo for imposing some unity and sensibility.”  The colors are a nice mix of both soothing and energetic. A cheery kaleidoscope. Golf clap.

A brain warning light flashes on. Something’s not quite right- can’t seem to put my finger on it. Looking closer now.

Start to study the forms from the white cloud circle pushing outward. Arghh. You realize that this is not a repeating pattern of pleasing colors and shapes like you hoped. Oh no, it’s a carefully constructed chaos. An un-pattern. A deliberation of chaos, disguised as semi-order. Groan.

Grudging, I admit my tidy list is only a paper boat that I hope will float me though this week’s rapids. Maybe tending to the “unlisted” things will keep the unrelenting chaos at bay. Then the bright idea hits me.

“Darling, wouldn’t this pattern make lovely wallpaper for the guest bathroom?”

Handkerchief amoré

Allison Miller, Noren, Susan Inglett Gallery, New York, New York

Allison Miller, Noren, Susan Inglett Gallery, New York, New York

Ahh. . . now here we are in the land of pure abstraction, not a representational figure in sight, yet Allison Miller uses pattern to create a wafting, billowy painting that draws your eye back and forth in the breeze. Like a gossamer handkerchief on a clothes line, or a myriad flags waving under a quilted sky.

The use of pattern here is still as playful and engaging as in the last two paintings we touched. If you look closely, the patterns actually create the painting and its depths.  Not utilitarian and controlled, bowing to the artists bidding. They take on a life of thier own, stacking like those overhead transparencies our teachers used to use, laid one on top of the other. She accomplishes this transparent depth by working in a medium called encaustic, hot wax mixed with pigment and then applied.

Notice the background layer, a collage of quilted colors that melt and merge in liquidy squares. These draw your eye deep into the painting. Next look at the gossamer overlay of filmy blue- the squigges dance on top. These seem to float and wriggle right before your eyes.  What to do with the squiggles in orange diamonds, do they belong to the quilted background or the breezy foreground, or a no-man’s-land midground?

The squiggles remind me of flags, and I imagine she is bidding “ciao” to her Italian (or Hungarian) lover. I still can’t get the handkerchief impression out of my head– but that could be the muffled call of a forgotten one given to me by a long ago lover, tucked back in my lingerie drawer.  Does she long for that vibrant happiness? Maybe she just misses the kick-ass gelato.