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//Love in a Cold Climate

Francesca DiMattio, Simone Shubuck, Anj Smith, Emily Mae Smith, Ruby Stiler

Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston
2 February – 20 February, 2007

Love in a Cold Climate assembles a group of works by five female artists who entice us with sparkle, uncanny nuances, luscious paint, intimate lines, personal text, and hints of fashion, only to reveal that beneath the loving embrace of these delectable materials lies a colder, darker subtext: the underside of contemporary culture.

Influenced by 17th century Vanitas paintings, Anj Smith’s small-scale paintings have epic proportions. Her paint surfaces modulate from impasto to veiled transparency, with imagery from fairytales, tall tales and fables. Her etchings are gritty, delicate renditions of similar narratives with the exquisite touch of a refined line.

Ruby Stiler’s sculptures confound the viewer by mixing up low subject matter with meticulous and handcrafted forms of modern synthetic materials and glammed-up surfaces. She re-creates chains, broken umbrellas, piles of detritus and seemingly found cast-away items in a new material form, giving them a reinvented life, one that is threaded with glitter, sparkle, cobwebs, dark corners and unforeseen crevices. The result is an unsettling combination of seductive surfaces, undesirable objects, and the conversion of the natural and real into the unnatural and the manipulated.

Emily Mae Smith’s paintings, while beginning with the charm indicative of the south, suggest something hidden behind the ‘perfect’ facade of seduction and beauty. Pom Poms is a painting based on Texas football culture where beautiful cheerleaders might be shaking their poms for the victory of the strong male athletes on the field. Here the cheerleaders are gone, leaving the pom poms to fall down on the canvas, their forms taking on a sinister shape and articulating a certain underside of football/country club culture – the hard drinking, the homogeneous, the hetero-centric and other negative stereotypes.

Francesca DiMattio’s paintings are a raucous intersection of cultural debris including Americana design, architectural frameworks, human limbs, peacock feathers, butterfly wings and species of birds. The spontaneity of her compositions activate the paintings and investigate a cataclysmic moment of extreme emotion and surface tension as the anti-decorative collides with the grotesque. Both beautiful and bizarre – aesthetic and political – DiMattio complicates the legibility of space and subjectivity by representing objects of decoration thrust into disaster creating a new narrative that is both seductive and haunting.

Simone Shubuck allows her stream of consciousness to weave a subtle intervention among otherwise charming, quiet imagery – knives mix with delicate fauna, obscenities and fashion with girls and animals. Using graphite and colored pencil with heavy paper, found stationery or boxes, Shubuck’s world is filled with flora, birds, Louis Vuitton, stilettos and dirty words. The beautiful and delicate meet the dangerous and edgy, and the result is always an intimate surprise.

In one way or another, all of the works explore a feminine landscape or utilize certain female signifiers that suggest, at the very least, a fearlessness and confidence of what it means to be a woman in today’s contemporary world.

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