Friday, April 26, 2013

What is Truth?

New works by Peter Sheesley at Fulcrum
The Weekly Volcano, april 25, 2013 

Bread of Life by Peter Sheesley
Peter Sheesley is a talented and prolific painter. His previous show at Fulcrum, paintings from photos taken in Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry, was excellent. But his latest show fails on many levels.

The show is called ¿What is Truth? And it consists of 10 paintings, each depicting a naked person with background images that have no apparent relationship to the figures. Some of the backgrounds are landscapes and some are abstract. The images represent Biblical passages, specifically things that Jesus said or that were said about him.

In a wall statement he states that his previous work was “distant and impersonal” and he wanted to get away from that. It didn’t work. These paintings are just as distant and impersonal. They seem cold and lifeless, in contrived poses and painted with overly careful paint strokes that soak into the canvas. And they have no relationship with the Biblical passages that I can discern. Next to each painting is wall test quoting the passage it is based on; without these texts the pictures would make no sense whatsoever.

Elsewhere in his rather lengthy wall text he explains the difference between nude and naked — nude being idealized or posed and rendered with the intention of being pretty, and naked being more naturalistic or realistic, meaning possibly being ugly or at least less than ideal in beauty. In this respect he is more successful. These are portraits of people who could be your neighbor or the checker at your grocery store. Some are overweight, at least one has a head that is too large for her body.

“Count the Cost” pictures a woman with sagging breasts and a fat belly standing on a fog enshrouded street in front of a typical suburban house. It is loaded with symbols, none of which I would have recognized if they hadn’t been spelled out in the wall text.

“It is Better for You” at 30” x 44” is the largest painting in the show and the most dramatic. It pictures a handsome and muscular man lying on the ground with a knife in one hand and the other hand cut off and bleeding on the ground.

“Bread of Life” at 14” x 17” is the smallest and, I think, the best in the show. It is a picture of a naked man on hands and knees with a pink triangular shape coming from the top of the canvas to the bottom so that his body straddles it. It thought it was the center line of a highway drawn in perspective, but the artist describes it as a rip.

The painting in which the figure and background are most successfully integrated is “The Opressed Go Free,” which pictures an attractive woman with a nice figure (ironically the most idealized in a show that strives for realistic nakedness as opposed to idealized nudity) in front of a strange gabled house. Her pose resonates with the shape of the house, and her legs vanish into the fog in a nice way.

In the back gallery there are about 40 small drawings and paintings done in figure drawing sessions as Centralia Community College and plein air landscape paintings. In many ways these are much better than the works in the main show because they’re less studied and more expressive.

[Fulcrum Gallery, What is Truth? noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays and by appointment, through June 14, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]
 March 12th - April 19th

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