Reviews

Kristy Verenga
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Kristy Verenga

 

Soul Food

 

Kristy’s paintings remind me of her name.

Crystal. Crystalline.

Crisp.

Colorful.

Captivating.

Conscious. Dreamy. Haunting. Clear.

Contagious.

They get under the skin. They’re addicting, bewitching, delicious. Yummy, is a good word.

Some are good enough to eat.

Even though they aren’t food, they are food for thoughts, food for dreams, for the heart, for the soul, in fact, in a way these paintings are food, soul food.

The world of abstract art, the world of art, for that matter, is filled with things to look at, but for this viewer, if what I’m looking at doesn’t touch me, doesn’t make me stop and stare, doesn’t get inside of me and make me feel something, something different, then it’s too abstract, it leaves me cold. That’s the difference between abstract good art and abstract bad.

Good touches. If I am touched, I stop and look.

What am I looking at when I stop in front of “Heart’s Ease”, for example, one of my favorite paintings from the series of 2008? I’m looking at shapes, squares, triangles, a box inside a box. But besides the shapes, what I’m looking at here, what draws me and sucks me into its vortex, are the colors, the sublimity and the intimacy, the proximity and the warmth of these purples and greens and yellows, with a heart on fire in the center of creation, a flowery heart, a liquid heart. It touches me. Perhaps the watery little fishy things surrounding it are chips off the old block, scattered, like fruit in jello, like snow on a hot night, like confetti….like the beginnings of all of us, a  typical Verenga image, speechless little creatures, swimming off the tip of our tongues. On the whole, this painting is representative really, a true Verenga, a trademark celebration whose roots are in the artist’s New York textile designs, her years in Spain, the Latin flair, a piñata exploding, bursting, full of surprises---Pandora’s Box showering all the little secrets, spilling out joy, the random laughter, floating, traveling through space. It’s a golden opportunity, Heart’s Ease, it’s an invitation --- it beckons --- come, it sings, dance to the party of life.

Others of Kristy Verenga’s  paintings, Light Rhythm, Hunting Mirages, even the more diaphanous Blue Shadow with its Mediterranean lure, are salted and peppered by spicy Spain. As much as Sun in Delhi is an Indian dream, the dripping red curtain, transparent as it is, holds a Spanish rose behind it, if albeit in disguise. Curiously, the second I saw the bone colored watchamacallits stamping across the path in the middle of Manifesting from Clouds I thought of footprints, only to find them brought to life --- two black feet, in Night Stillness, boldly planted under the moonlit sun. Another one of my favorites, Hidden Like a Treasure, is one of those paintings that’s good enough to eat. Or, to drink. Isn’t that an upside down champagne glass in the center of the pink and green lagoon? Another party, another celebration, Hidden Like a Treasure is another toast to life. The rosy flesh colored shapes swirl like sherbet through the milky greens; mint green, lime green, lemon green, watery green and grape green. Milk and green. The colors of hope, of innocence, of birth. Milk and green. The colors, again, of life.  I have heard other critics insist that Open Door and Sunrise are the most finished, the most “completed” works. Without a doubt, they are neater, cleaner, less cluttered, more exact, more mathematical and in tact. But those qualities are not necessarily what Kristy Verenga’s work is about. The work is abstract, but it’s recognizable, it’s easy to embrace, it’s the opposite of darkness, it’s welcoming, friendly, frank and warm. And we are given friendly titles to ground us and the titles are helpful and they work. Like little haikus they take us through the labyrinth of Kristy’s work, they guide us and lead us so we don’t get lost in shapes, the shapes of dreams, the dream of shapes, the phantasmagoria of what’s inside…the universe and us. Kristy Verenga paints this dream --- the dream of where and who and what and why --- onto the canvas, onto the paper, all the colors that are good to look at. If it is the artist’s vision we are presented with when we look at Kristy’s paintings, then she offers us a chance to see what is happening right in front of her eyes, what is dancing, electric, kinetic, energetic, what’s inside our everyday lives. What’s inside the air we breathe, the water we drink, the dreams we dream. What are things made of?  Kristy Verenga gives us a chance to see the human side of the moon, the primal side of the sun, a pattering of feet in the clouds. The hidden treasures, this is Verenga territory, the stuff we might look at, but forget to see, the stuff popping out between the lines of the stuff inside the box. These paintings are the stuff outside the box. For that is precisely the point, this artist asks us to look outside the box, not at what is, but at what isn’t, not at what’s there, but at the hidden treasures buried inside of what we normally see. Kristy Verenga gives us a glimpse inside the artist’s eye, a chance to peep outside the box. It’s a pleasure to step into this luscious world and see what can’t be seen.   

 

Susana Gross

Barcelona, Spain

September 30, 2008