Kellesimone Waits: Transmutation
Project Gallery LA
through November 21, 2015
By SHANA NYS DAMBROT, NOV. 2015
Kellesimone Waits builds the compositions in her new painting series from variations on the same core elements -- lone figures, exoctic botanicals, and quixotic spirit animals -- using an unusual combination of fine, glimmering pencil drawing and gestural abstract color-wash. With titles like “The Little Donkey” and “Swan Prince” (all works: 2015, acrylic on canvas, 65 x 49 in.) one is immediately delivered a sense of myth or at least fairytale. This effect is heightened by the large and uniform scale of the collection, giving a pages-from-a-storybook feel to the whole, even as each individual work in Transmutations functions as a kind of talismanic portrait on its own.
The subjects are situated among and festooned with singular animal and floral elements (gardenia and donkey, rose and frog, juniper tree and scarlet eagle) that seem to telegraph specific spiritual and symbolic meanings, approaching the point of mysterious narrative. Yet despite being portraits, they nevertheless subvert convention by rendering the personages in graphite line drawings that almost read like negative space in comparison to their richly hued accoutrements. Though at first we seem to learn more about the figures from their auric crests than from their likenesses, ultimately the evocative human faces command the viewer’s full attention. Like whispers you have to lean in closer to hear, in the end the direct gazes of the figures pull you in like tractor beams. The sophisticated hand of the refined drawing despite its subtlety more than holds its own with the emotional, expressive color field abstraction of the auras and the lively hues of the flowers and blossoms -- and even against the expertly rendered animal icons, which are the most dramatic, metaphysical actors in the tableaux.
The two exceptions to the motif are “Seven Ravens” and “Little Brother, Little Sister” in both of which the figures are also rendered in the same saturated, lithe, heavy-paint style as the flora and fauna. In those cases the total effect is more like a stained glass window, organized according to abstract color-blocking logic with gorgeous black lines delineating coltish postures. Waits’ uniquely languid, yet passionate style investigates archetypal femininity and art historical tropes with the dreamlike quality of an imaginary friend. WM
Shana Nys Dambrot is an art critic, curator, and author based in Los Angeles. She is currently LA Editor for Whitehot Magazine, Contributing Editor to Art Ltd., and a contributor to KCET’s Artbound, Flaunt, Huffington Post, The Creators Project, Vs. Magazine, Palm Springs Life, Montage, Desert Magazine, LA Review of Books, and Porter & Sail. She studied Art History at Vassar College, writes loads of essays for art books and exhibition catalogs, curates and/or juries a few exhibitions each year, sometimes exhibits her photography and publishes short fiction, and speaks in public at galleries, schools, and cultural institutions nationally. An account of her activities is sometimes updated at sndx.net.
Photo of Shana Nys Dambrot by Osceola Refetoff
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