"She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid."
— Anne Sexton
by Katey Schultz
Web. Cocoon. Lacework. Knitting. Dust. Pressed. Twisted.
These words best express artist Melissa Herrington’s visual language.
Aptly titled Reveille, the twenty-five paintings in this solo exhibition are an enthralling contribution to the Los Angeles painter’s body of work. This will be Herrington’s second solo show at Soren Christensen Gallery, New Orleans, Louisana. A reveille is a bugle call most often associated with the military. It is intended to wake personnel at sunrise. The name comes from the French, "wake up" and the Latin,“keep watch,” and it is here that the concept of Herrington’s work is revealed. The moments between sleep and wakefulness are hard to define—precious yet disorienting, human yet tied to something beyond ourselves. Herrington’s work invites us to witness similar moments of awakening. Whether physical or ephemeral, real or imagined, these moments make an impression on us and the gift of Reveille is that it lets us linger for a while in this ordinarily elusive space.
These works stem from Herrington’s recent studio time on a residential fellowship in Marnay, France awarded through CAMAC/Foundation Ténout. Inspired by the imagery of ropes, braided lilies, unraveling webs, cracks, and crevices, her painterly inscriptions oscillate between the representational and the abstract. It’s interesting to note how the balance between this imagery shifts. A rope-like mark could be viewed as divisive: interior versus exterior, domestic versus worldly, confinement versus freedom, self versus other. Or perhaps it’s a lifeline for the elusive figure, a passageway to another world. Likewise, obscured pencil inscriptions and dense layers of acrylic paint and pigments create residues that heighten tension.
Women depicted as mysterious and almost ghostly entities are the subject of a dream-like world that hits the viewer with a yearning for an unattainable harmony. Loosely sketched female figures blend into blushing blues, browns, and grays, contrasted by whole abstracted fields, as the colors seem to exhale forth or compress inward in a textured, visual narrative accented by luminous teal, subtle orange, and earthy lavender. Each painting is completed with either a matte-like finish or a high glossy resin pour. Juxtaposed, the differing finishes add to the overall sense of dialogue between the pieces.
Although each painting goes through many stages, there is an ease and assuredness in which the final paintings are offered. A sense of hopeful pessimism pervades the work—a feeling that leaves us at once haunted and confident, a feeling that, no doubt, we’re on the cusp of wakefulness.
Soren Christensen Gallery
400 Julia St.
New Orleans, LA 70130