Drift: Paintings about One Thing and Another

Exhibition Info
Curated by
Morgan Hobbs
Daydreams, prophetic visions, hallucinations, and streams of thought explored in paintings by six PAFA alumni

Daydreams, prophetic visions, hallucinations and streams of conscious and unconscious thought accumulate in paintings in Drift: Paintings about One Thing and Another. The works of six PAFA Alumni [1979 - 2017] - Philippa Beardsley, Ryan Busch, Mariel Capanna, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Sarah McEneaney and Joseph Rha fit comfortably into an imaginative yet simplified figuration seen frequently at PAFA, inspired in part by the influence of Hobson Pittman [PAFA Faculty 1949 - 72]. These artists describe objects of the world, familiar forms we can see and touch, but they hold back from claiming certainties of thorough description. Their often simplified forms open into narrative worlds of gist, psychology and myth.

McEneaney [Cert ‘79] has had a prolific career of producing pictures that seem mostly stable at first glance. Her narratives unfold through imagery, color and marks that add up to what might first appear to be a common-sense organization for an image. A quick viewer might miss the secrets in the details of her landscape and interior scenes, but a patient observer might see windows turn into humble American flags or wallpaper transform into needles.

Chase’s [MFA ‘16] portraits speak about the multifaceted nature of identity. His figures are fused with the field of the canvas and the object of double-sided paintings. Transparent arms, faces and objects interrupt the continuity of each figure. The overlapping elements seem both connected to the subject and belonging to another person.

Beardsley [MFA ‘12] blends personal memories and framing devices related to photography and film. Her heavily-worked collages exist within the viewers’ world as an object, but the framed images indicate a complex world of uncertainty and romance.     

Capanna’s [BFA ‘13] shaped frescos also exist as objects within the viewer’s space; her stacked images blend domestic and public environments. Her works seem to speak about the similarities between groups of people existing within an urban environment. Though Capanna rarely offers depictions of a human form, her paintings are active with life and presence.

Busch’s [MFA ‘17] painted pictures take a cue from forms most frequently associated with abstract painting. Framing and cropping at first produces squares and stripes. As the imagery emerges, figures and objects are found humorously interacting with the edges of the canvas and planes of color.

Rha’s [Cert ‘16] aggressive, textural paint application creates the smell, taste and emotion for his painted world. His imagery can be read literally and reinforced by titles related to the depicted image; however, the omission of detail from the image creates a discomfort opening up a world of metaphorical readings that seem to form social critique.

The Alumni Gallery is proud to explore one of the threads that hold the work of PAFA Alumni together. These six artists demonstrate a range within this dreamy, figurative style found both within the tradition at PAFA’s school and works within the PAFA museum’s collection.