Littlejohn Contemporary is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Melinda Stickney-Gibson, an artist whose abstracted, often violent, always painterly production is the distillation of an intuitive exploration of the often conflicting dualities of self and nature.
Art like Life By Eleanor Heartney
For Melinda Stickney Gibson, painting is like life – messy, full of accidents and underlain with semi-orderly structures that bend and disintegrate under pressure of real life action. Her lyrical paintings are not so much painted as allowed to evolve, growing by accretion over periods of weeks or months (or at times, even years), as loose brushstrokes are laid over looser grids, fields of color laid down to partially obscure sketchy marks, and traces of covered layers revealed by a subtle cut through the surface. These works are rife with hints of the nature-based abstract expressionism of Joan Mitchell, the atmospheric fields of Whistler, and the analytic reductiveness of Robert Ryman. As in the work of those artists, the final compositions are full of evidence of the process that created them, yielding a subtle complexity that could never have been envisioned at the beginning. Stickney Gibson tends to work on many paintings at once – lining them up along the walls of her studio, moving back and forth from one painting to another and allowing them to communicate with each other as they slowly develop over time. Surprisingly, given this treatment of art works almost as a collective entity, each painting has a strongly individualistic identity. Stickney Gibson notes that one of the things she learned from her study of the works of painter Phillip Guston is that shapes have personalities – in her paintings roughly edged rectangular shapes may cluster together as if for protection within white grounds, or they may expand outward, as if seeping into the entire surrounding world. In other works, marks never really coalesce into discernable forms, instead evoking shadowy forms glimpsed through heavy fog, or shimmers of color evident in the fractured reflections on the surface of a troubled lake.
After spending time between New York City and upstate New York for many years, in 2003 she moved to the Catskill Mountains full time. One feels the influence of nature in these otherwise completely abstract works – they seem at times saturated with the magical, glowing light of early dawn, for instance, or the gloom of deepening night, or the saturated reds and oranges of the forest in autumn. But at the same time, one is also aware of these works as records of an internal landscape. They reflect emotional states as well as natural ones. For Stickney Gibson shadings of light and dark and juxtapositions of vivid against near monochromatic fields of black or white serve as staging grounds for the dramas of the heart and mind. The shadows that sometimes seem to be passing over her paintings might equally be manifestations of the ever changing interplay of light and color in nature that so fascinated the Impressionists, and the expression of passing feelings of exaltation, doubt, sorrow and peace that form the backdrop to daily existence.
These works make clear that for Stickney Gibson painting is not just akin to life, but in a certain sense is the thing itself. We as viewers respond to these works because we recognize in them the ever shifting, often chaotic, and richly layered nature of the reality we all share.