Fêtes Galantes represents Maureen St. Vincent’s first solo presentation of work in Los Angeles.
Combining eroticized pastel compositions with one-of-a-kind artist-made frames, St. Vincent (b. San Luis Obispo, CA) constructs a sensual universe in which the ordinary and the perverse are no longer reduced to a dichotomy. Adapting a surrealist vocabulary with an emphasis on body, shape, and symbolism, the four languid pieces on display blur the line between voyeuristic feminine sensuality and commercial satire.
Inspired by the unabashedly decorative and ingenious frames of Florinne Stettheimer, St. Vincent began to manufacture her own; softening the rupture between the art and its framing in pointed disregard of conventional preoccupations. Her interest is not in classical division, but in “the moment when the body tingles, wanders away from the earth and loses control.”
“By adopting surrealist imagery that breaks away from the constraints of the rational world,” explains the artist, “I am able to create a space where sensuality sets its own rules, and anthropomorphism allows us to act out our inner fantasies and desires.”
Echoing St Vincent’s other recent works Maggie’s Womb and Mother Lick, a liminal space unfurls for audiences across four stunning, saturated pieces.
Flesh-toned, seductively anatomical shapes allude to the female form—and to the carnal embrace of snails in fields of tall grass, brushed by a soft breeze. Disembodied legs straddle abstract gastropods, while brilliantly furry moths engage in a carnal dance. The isolation of various body parts suggest an out-of-body experience, even as the tangibility of the frames completes and grounds each tableau.
With her characteristic whimsical technique, St. Vincent’s use of non-conventional custom framing connotes a sense of gesamtkunstwerk—the “total work of art”.
In ‘Fêtes Galantes’, each of the four pieces is complimented and amplified by its singular frame; questioning the established boundaries of artist, exhibitor, and audience. At the same time, the artist subtly draws attention to the unspoken capitalistic intentionality of visual art. The frame is typically distinct from the artwork itself, and used as a tool for the display—and by extension, the buying and selling—of a piece. But St. Vincent makes it impossible to limit the boundaries of her vision. With a frame that swoops and curls and ripples like skin stretched taut across muscle and bone, she can expand or even dissolve external delineations of what is being consumed.
A keen lack of control may be the sensation conjured, and yet the artist’s method is infinitely precise. St. Vincent’s careful choice of shape and color work in tandem to first soothe the viewer, before springing a tightly-wound trap of erotic danger. The frame of Slow Hips suggests exactly that; a humanoid pelvis smoothed into abstraction and baited with soft mossy green. Palissy Hussy is the most obviously vaginal in shape, complete with an inverted clitoral dollop. Yet its deeply scarlet hue, reminiscent of wine and pomegranate and blood, borders on the carnivorous. Even the titular Fêtes Galantes features a ring of secondary framing that hints at the ridged throat of a predator. Desire in the world of St. Vincent is a double-edged razorblade. To surrender to pleasure is to surrender one’s own self — and to be consumed.
Surreal, emotional, and utterly original, Fêtes Galantes brims with the organic sensuality and feminine perspective that exemplifies Maureen St. Vincent’s growing body of work. It can be found on display in the Moskowitz Bayse viewing room through February 5th.
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