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Into the Empty: explorations recentes by Shelley Freeman – Review

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Howdy!

Last week I was at Wilder and Davis, about which I have already written, and thankfully they have extended the exhibit that they have by Shelley Freeman until the end of the month or so. It’s called Into the Empty: explorations recentes. Somebody should politely explain to Ms. Freeman that puns are only good in Marx Brothers’ films.

Thankfully, her lack of talent in puns is inversely proportional to her ability to wield a paintbrush. Yes, all the paintings are about nooks, crannies, tunnels, caves and other dark places, but they are quite impressive, doubly so because of the setting.

[if you’re having difficulty seeing the pictures, click here]

One problem with exhibitions in “non-traditional” gallery spaces is being able to get reliable information, this is not a knock on Wilder and Davis, but more a reminder to me, that if I am going to write about other people’s art, then I should take better notes, especially if I am going to do it a week after having seen the show. Which is a long winded way of saying I have no clue as to the titles of the paintings, sorry.

What you can’t see in these photos is the thickness of the paint that Ms. Freeman uses. Not only are the pretty striking representations of said “nooks, crannies, tunnels, caves and other dark places,” but if you get close enough you can actually stick your nose into them as well.

They work particularly well in Wilder and Davis because the building itself is full of “nooks, crannies, tunnels, caves and other dark places.” I could riff off and discuss the significance of the relationship between the paintings and the space where they are hung, but I figure that y’all are sufficiently intelligent enough to figure it out for yourself. If you aren’t then you really should be reading something else. If you haven’t been to Wilder and Davis, yet, then I can understand your confusion.

Basically the place is a luthier (fine folk who fix fiddles) that is in an old, very old, graystone building. These first three pictures are all of paintings on the ground floor in the waiting area / reception room. They are all very fine paintings, quite pretty and nice, but the theme doesn’t really hit you until you venture up the stairs, in the hallway next to the stairs is one painting (not pictured) where it starts to creep up on you, and by the time your on the second floor you’re slapping your forehead and saying to yourself “I get it!”

I was able to pick up a copy of the press release, which while it helped to jog certain bits of my memory didn’t do much for my appreciation of the paintings.

Possessing threatening and enticing elements, these images of rock fissures, ice formations, caves, mines and tunnels generate dualistic impulses of uncertainty and excitement – risk and wonderment. The journey Freeman takes us on candidly reveals an ongoing cycle that challenges our perception and human experience to see far beyond the surface and discover other haunting profound elements.

Umm, not to belabor the obvious but I think it is a bit over the top. From my perspective, it seems to me that Ms. Freeman either wants to be a spelunker, or is a spelunker. And it is ok to be obsessed by small dark and damp spaces, just make sure that your batteries are fully charged and that you don’t use breadcrumbs as a means to mark your route.

But, back to the paintings. My two favorites are the fourth one, the mine on a white-ish background, and the first one (the greenish yellow one). Both of them have a focal point that is off center, which is always the case in Ms. Freeman’s paintings, but with these two, she is slightly closer to the center of the canvas. I would have to go back to Wilder and Davis and measure every last painting in order to figure out if these two are the only ones that are “slightly” off-center but you can see in the tunnel and the ice that your eye is drawn to almost at the edge of the canvas. Other than that, I can’t really find any other similarities between the two of them or any differences from the others that would explain why they rock.

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