Gay City News
Into the Wild
— By SHEILA PEPE
Consider the title of this group exhibition, “Endangered Wasteland.” Between the first and second word you’ll probably stumble over others like “species” and “rainforests.” It’s that stumbling that draws attention to the subjects at our feet, providing the perfect framework to consider the paintings now on view at CRG Gallery.
Tomory Dodge, Angela Dufresne, Kelly McLane, and Lisa Sanditz each present two large canvases in this exhibition. All are decidedly landscape in subject, if not format. All are aimed at divorcing us from any hope for American landscape painting as a palliative antidote to the fact of our current environmental condition. Long gone is a hope for the bounty of nature to provide for our salvation – we blew that option when we greedily set to its demise.
Dodge and McLane present their ecological concerns by giving the viewer a managed view of natural subjects. McLane deftly drafts flora and fauna in a pastiche of images on a pristine ground. Graphite hatchings define the rippling fur of a young buck and gnarled branches in “My Bush Now.” One wonders if the pun is intended. Open, dry, and lightly touched, it’s hard to get a handle on the absence presented by this delicacy.
Dodge’s depiction of a similar disconnect is closer to your face, if not in it. In “Camper (Mirage II)” he coalesces obese licks of Bob Ross trickery into an image of rural blight. A lone RV sits atop a ground of robins-egg blue, it’s paint dragged below to depict its reflection. A stock play for “happy sky” descends into a decidedly troubled wetland.
Lisa Sanditz goes right to the heart of our pollution problem. In “Pearl Farm II,” a mass of bottles bulges forth from a tiny Oz-like city above the waterline. Calling up images of bundled, cultivated mollusks, Sanditz points to the precarious industrial norm of our natural resources. But it’s clear this farm has run amuck – with real muck – made by passages of gooey, shitty paint. There’s funkiness to the abstract pile-up Sanditz assembles. Depending on your affinity to expressive tropes, the inherent humor either let’s you off the hook, or drives the point home. Who would think this is funny?
Perhaps it’s a matter of generational taste, but it’s a sense of the visceral that I yearn for when considering our planet’s demise. At the same time, I imagine my desire as a kind of phantom limb of “nature.” That’s why Dufresne’s “Hookers Down by Law” provides the most haunting depiction of endangerment in the exhibition. The view is urban. Lights, cars, and street signs dart in an out of a scuffed and scumbled black ground.
It’s hard to know exactly where we are. Maybe the openness suggests a once wild West; maybe it simply conveys the expansive night. Two working girls idle. One leans, stiffly. Nature here is the stuff of catcalls – not bird calls. It’s a place that reminds us, animal behavior is always more palatable when it’s not human.
Far from any fantasy of nature untouched, Dufresne makes her own wild presence known, dragging bold bronze swipes across our view, and flinging strikes of loose green washes, like a bath of angry acid rain. What’s endangered? It seems our ability to leave wild things alone, both in the land and within ourselves.