Fresh-cut paintings

Ken Waterstreet, “Zygo Gyro,” oil on canvas, 2002.

Ken Waterstreet, “Zygo Gyro,” oil on canvas, 2002.

A lot of romantic cuteness can be found this month in an exhibit at the Solomon Dubnick Gallery. The latest paintings from Ken Waterstreet not only represent a shift in approach for the respected painter, but also provide a perfect art lovers’ backdrop for Valentine’s Day.

All the paintings on display are large, dazzling, close-up images of various types of flowers that glisten with light reflecting off of carefully painted water droplets. Almost like an op-art trick, each of the paintings has subtle, semi-hidden hearts that suddenly jump out. This may seem a bit overdone and too sticky-sweet to the lonely holiday haters and might make them sick with connotations of extreme love.

Nevertheless, these paintings shouldn’t be dismissed because of subject matter alone. They’re surprisingly wonderful pieces of art—surprising because the description of them seems trite, but not surprising considering the quality of work Waterstreet is capable of doing.

Waterstreet painted his first flower for a group show at Solomon Dubnick last year. With a dramatically dark background and an almost radiant green light emanating from the outer edges, that painting prompted him to embark on a few more. The results are these large, fresh pieces that, when viewed from a distance, seem almost like the photo-realist paintings made famous in the 1970s by Richard Estes and his cronies. But, when Waterstreet’s paintings are closely examined, there are no signs of the stiff airbrush work that killed any life in the paintings from that movement. There is only the fine detail of a painter obsessed. The paintings have a distinct feel of space, with petals in the foreground in full focus while the edges and water droplets in the background turn into unrecognizable fuzz. A strong sense of light dominates the forms, making the colors zing and the overall image spring forth.

This should be a great show for Valentine’s couples, who can share wonderful paintings that have a soothing romantic spin. As for singles, well, they can enjoy the show, too. You never know; you may meet someone there with a common interest.