In this exhibition the many ways of being close are examined. Paul Kehrer and Emma Steinkraus, both in their twenties and at the beginning of their careers, paint those closest to them but employ radically different approaches and techniques.
Kehrer delivers raw emotion through the paint surface. He makes clever use of compositional elements such as negative space, constructing an emptiness with which he surrounds his sitter. This emptiness contributes to a sense of oppression. This effect is enhanced by his use of either a strong dark palette or washed out blues and grays. As the viewer, we see the subject Lizzy from the perspective of the painter. Kehrer’s paintings act like a lens, starting out further away from the sitter and getting progressively closer to her. In the final painting, Last Lizzy, the lens is so close that all perspective has been lost. Only her robe and the cushions of the couch are represented, the figure having disappeared entirely.
In contrast, Steinkraus imbues her smooth-surfaced paintings with a dream-like quality by depicting everything in hyper-detail and an altered palette. She portrays herself in the confines of a relationship and invites the viewer to bear witness to her paintings of various imagined scenarios. Steinkraus portrays her subjects in rooms, cars and tents thereby creating tableaus for her intimate scenes. She also invokes intimacy through snap shots in time, often with a magical realism, such as the ghostly moth flitting through the enclosed space of their car in Driving, or the sublime view encased by glass in Colorado. She then turns the lens upon herself in Self-Portrait with Beastie. The viewer is left to wonder if we are witnessing something outside the self or a manifestation of the reptilian brain or perhaps the proverbial devil upon the shoulder. These paintings seek to illuminate the many paths we take to knowing others and our selves. They suggest that sometimes we look for something so hard that we miss what is plainly in front of us, and that our hopes and desires color our vision greatly. The works demonstrates the unique qualities inherent in each relationship and convey two vastly different experiences of being close to another.
Alexandra Sherman Curator,
Considering the context of the gallery, and that this work was never intended for a seminary audience I have been asking myself, “What do these paintings have to do with God”? I could rationalize their presence in this context in several ways, but I feel strongest that since God is a God who is alive, active, and does things, art begins to mimic God most by first simply by doing something, or causing something. I did not have God in mind when I made these, but I have faith that God had me in mind all the while.
There are different kinds of “close”. There are as many different varieties and kinds of closeness as there are different varieties and kinds of silence. I made several portraits of Liz of during 2007. Previously I was primarily working with abstraction, but felt a sense of urgency to make mimetic paintings of her. I have no interest in painting strangers. I worked from someone very close to me. At that time her life was full of grief and throughout the series the images began to directly include abstraction until she succumbed to the environment and her image was no longer necessary to paint her portrait.