Senior Studio’s Surface a Cohesive Visual Dialogue

Oliver Levine, Staff Writer

SURFACE, one of the larger Senior Studio and Thesis shows, opened in last Friday in Fisher Gallery. Featuring the work of College seniors Lydia Boehm, Clarissa Fortier and Francis Lee, SURFACE is a collection of large-scale paintings and studies.  Their canvases almost overwhelmingly saturated with color, all three artists use interrelated visual languages to show the viewer their vastly different objectives. Despite variances in subject matter, Lee, Boehm and Fortier all share a clear agreement on the common thread among their works: their surfaces.

Lee’s pulsating paintings of articles of clothing and fabric instill feelings of warmth and security, beneath which lies an inexplicable darkness. The surfaces of these large paintings are so dense with brushstrokes that they are almost purely abstract. It is only from a distance that the viewer is able to identify them as pieces of clothing or fabric. Never showing the flesh that lies beneath the clothing, these paintings and drawings feel very powerful, and reading her very personal artist statement only magnified their meaning. The framed studies for these paintings are fascinating as well, demonstrating how the linear elements of the paintings were carefully thought out, while the strokes appear to have been improvised. In “Peter,” Lee creates a sense of volume using dark reds and light blues, interspersed with different mid tones.

Boehm’s vibrant, breathing paintings reflect her California upbringing. Her body of work is comprised mainly of three enormous paintings aptly titled “Cali is the Mission (Parts I and II),” and the centerpiece, “Citrus Dreamz.” As a triptych, these paintings play well off of each other and capture the quality of light she searches for. As abstracted works, “Citrus Dreamz” is the only one of the three that might not be recognizable as the inside of an orange out of the context of the two surrounding pieces. Their highly textural quality, however, and the select use of a more pastel palette in “Cali is the Mission (Part I)” is interesting and suggests serious potential for future works.

In contrast, according to her artist statement, Fortier’s paintings depict landscapes in a state of flux. She focuses on nature and the presence of humans on a site as agents of change. Her use of color to create surreal rocky scenes is at times overwhelmingly beautiful, and at others intentionally murky. In her “Dry Creek” paintings, Fortier uses the unsettling image of a pipe running through what would otherwise be an untouched landscape. Powerful in message and technique, these paintings send a clear message while at the same time keeping the viewer occupied with “the materiality of the paint.”

As much a demonstration of the potential of oil paints as an exploration of personal style, all three artists successfully create their own unique visions in SURFACE. Several people in attendance claimed that upon entering the gallery, they thought one artist had done the entire show, but quickly realized where one body of work ended and the next began. Whether or not the artists’ works are conceptually cohesive is up in the air; their aesthetic sensibilities, however, cohesively represent the possibilities of paint’s tactile nature.