Natalie Wadlington: Front Yards, Back Yards
September 9 through October 8, 2022
By ALFRED ROSENBLUTH, October 2022
For her solo show, Front Yards, Back Yards, Natalie Wadlington illuminates the mythic contours of childhood as re-encountered under the restrictions of nation-wide lockdown. Illustrating the artist’s recalled and invented memories, these autobiographic works extend to the transpersonal - her allegorical doubles, like children, remain absorbed within their worlds but project a maturity in communion with their suburban domestic environments.
Relevant to Wadlington’s vision is the equal labor with which she completes her painting’s multiple subjects. The human form is given preference neither over the morse code of water droplets nor the shadow cast by a chainlink fence. Through this wholeness of their constituent parts, Natalie effects a symbolic field that communicates a sentience reflective of a child’s animistic perceptions.
Animals function as intermediaries between both the figures and their environment and between the viewer and the work. In Front Yard With Crepe Myrtle, the bulging geometry of a dog’s eye arrests our gaze, opening our perception to the composition’s surreal depth. An impeccably placed bird mediates an abrupt shift of perspective between the front yard and walkway, beyond which our line of sight recedes into an expansive suburban landscape. Through this juxtaposition, the front yard’s hermetic, horizontal composition corresponds to the narrative of a world confined to a property line. Decorative elements likewise abound. Pansy triplicates extend from the walkway’s base; lime green tevas anchor the calligraphy of a dog leash. It’s difficult to overstate the subtlety with which Natalie orders this wide amount of variables, but they sustain and enrich one another within a soft tension that would otherwise dissolve under a less-adroit sensibility.
House Outside Of Town further illustrates Natalie’s ability to incorporate multiple traditions within a unique whole. Conventions of Early Florentine Renaissance and American Regionalism feature prominently: the property’s tree line establishes perspective below a wild cloudscape set ablaze by the departing sun. Elsewhere, two frozen birds telegraph the quiet power of Fra Angelico above an archaic figure that echos the ham-fisted influence of Dana Schutz.
Natural light is likewise critical to Wadlington’s narrative. She employs the liminal vibrancy of twilight to indicate a departure from the linear order of the day world, casting its subjects in an archetypal light; their hieroglyphic posture and form further emphasize the perennial significance of their activity. Putting On Dog Leash serves as one such example where the ritualistic significance behind an otherwise mundane task is recovered through the subjects’ monumentality. Similarly, Dog Treat does not portray the sating of canine hunger, but the entreaty of a totem in the form of a heart-shaped offering. Certain works set a tonal contrast and catalogue a journey to the underworld in subdued shades of night. In Lying in Grass At Night a gargantuan figure freezes at the mystery of a bat. In Frog At Night With Crane, a stone bird heralds renewal before the mournful release of a frog. In Worms After Rain, pools of water condense the sky’s macrocosm into neon gradients illuminating the figure’s eyes. Natalie implies this fusion of self and environment with subtlety, ennobling innocence with a depth that only the perspective of the artist’s years can articulate.
In imitation of the canvas, hand-sculpted insects adorn the gallery’s walls in tight square formations. To Natalie, they represent a natural extension of her characteristic attention to discreet elements into physical form. In the context of this larger body of work, these sculptures act as souvenirs - substantiating the compelling evidence of Wadlington’s pilgrimage to childhood. WM