1078 showing Newman sisters first exhibit together
Chico, CA 95928
In the mid-18th century, philosopher Edmunde Burke wrote of “the terrific sublime,” an aesthetic experience that could be full of awe-inspiring terror and pleasure. Counter to the agreeable feeling of taking in an object or event that is beautiful and well-formed, Burke conceived of the terrific sublime as a heightened and exalted sensitivity one is overwhelmed by when facing something beyond one’s control or comprehension. This sublime is conceived of as an ambivalent state, an in-between-ness, a displacing attempt toward reckoning with the great unknowns in an uncannily strange and complicated universe.
Artists have long drawn upon, pondered and played with notions of beauty and the sublime, particularly as encroaching industrialization began to transform the wondrous natural world. Aspects of this terrific sublime, including troubled intersections between ingenious new technologies and ravaged natural landscapes, the remarkable achievements of the human spirit and our amazing capacities to unravel and undo our worlds, as well as attentions to how we might cultivate and possess ourselves anew, all came to my mind as I encountered the large portraiture of Sibling Reverie, the exhibit of multimedia works by artists Elizabeth Newman Kuiper and Linda Newman Bougton currently on display at 1078 Gallery.
The title of the show hints at both familial love and tension, and the work of these artist sisters is, appropriately, fragmented by varied subject matter and unified by an engulfing vastness of scale.
The two employ wildly different skills in these compositions, but seem to draw upon a stillness and sureness of craft that does not appear dissimilar. In a talk about their work given at the opening-night reception, the artists spoke of drawing upon a family legacy of applied arts and crafts, mentioning that when they were young they would spend long hours sitting as subjects for their painter grandmother, herself trained by the famed Ashcan School artist John Sloane. Making images, they indicated, was for them an inevitable way of living, and putting together Sibling Reverie, their first show together in a lifetime of making artworks, they described as “a dream experience.”
“Dream experience” is a suitable term perhaps both for the artists’ own process of uniting their work and the feeling of the viewer encountering it. Kuiper has been working as an artist and instructor in Chico for more than two decades, and has evolved in her approach over the years, moving between painting, multimedia assemblage projects and photographic digital prints.
In Sibling Reverie, Kuiper exhibits photographic pieces, exponentially blown up from their first incarnations taken on the small screen of an iPhone. The pictures oscillate between blur and detailed pixilation, general and specific. Subjects can be discerned, such as in a young girl mid-movement in “hannahblur” or a night sky illuminated in “indigomoon,” but they escape easy grasping, just as the details of dreams fade quickly away. Kuiper stated that she is drawn to nature and beauty, and hopes to offer something with her imagery to remind her viewers of some mystery and wonder in a harsh world.
Trained in illustration in New York, and now based in Los Angeles, Boughton has experience composing paintings for film and television sets and privately commissioned mural work that is brought to her fantastical pieces at 1078. Inspired by the vaguely remembered strains of her own dreams, Boughton has made portraits of imagined and real figures plucked from history, both her own personal history and the narratives of textbooks. A skilled portrait artist, Broughton’s ink renderings of Civil War generals and oil paintings of contemporary ingénues comprise her various muses. With great attention to detail, Boughton invites the viewer to momentarily be lost in her world.
Alternately grand and introspective, elegiac and celebratory, Sibling Reverie pulls a viewer into the complex space of the terrific sublime, where the miracles and troubles of the world seem closer, considerable and worth contemplation.