January 5th, 2018 — January 28th, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, January 5th, 6PM – 9PM
Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made (I try to act in the gap between the two).
DAVID&SCHWEITZER Contemporary is proud to present Heavenly Creatures, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Heather Morgan.
On social media, Heather Morgan describes herself quite simply as “Painter Person.” Through the practice of her painting, she reconciles a past lived on the edge and finds personal salvation – it’s that real for her – resulting in deeply felt work filled with strength, triumph, intimacy, vulnerability, and sexuality.
The characters in her work (I often think of her portraits as surrogates for self and as actors in an imagined film she is directing of her own life) have varied from literary icons such as Baudelaire, Artaud, Wilde (all roads lead to Oscar), rockstars like Bowie, Cave, Nico, and Morrissey; sinners and saints. Ultimately, the dominant subject in her work returns to the figure; paintings of women who redefine notions of beauty and female sexuality. These works question who has agency over imagery traditionally associated with the male gaze.
In her latest body of work for this exhibition, Heavenly Creatures, Morgan narrows her focus to self-portraits and to the women in her life. Historical precedent for her work can be seen in such Expressionist figure painters as Kirchner and Beckmann (Morgan’s gestalt is deeply rooted in German expressionism, in fact after graduating from Yale with an MFA, she chose live and paint in Berlin), Neel, and Dumas. While affinities with these painters can be found in some of the formal aspects of Morgan’s painting, her approach, and her choice of subject matter, reflects the time and place in which she lives, allowing her to her create work deeply personal and wholly original.
Morgan works in various materials and scale. From large-scale fatty oils to minute drawings in watercolor and pencil. These drawings, sometimes as small as two and three inches (which may or may not result in larger works), are placed the in the vignette cutouts of antique photo albums that she finds or are gifted to her, becoming a diary, a sacred object. In mid-sized works on paper, with inks and watercolor, her hand ‘opens’ and the liquid of the medium, and paper it sits on and reacts to, creates a marriage between material and subject, a miracle of eroticism, seen in such beautiful works as Der Kuss, Recliner, Hustler II, and Untitled 5.
It’s in the large-scale works, painted lushly with thick fat oil, left in different states of “completion” such as Behind the Door, and Heavenly Creature, where the complexity of Morgan’s work and inner life becomes most ambitious and clear.
In both works Morgan stares directly at the viewer. In Behind the Door we find Morgan in formal business attire, a modern day enigmatic Mona Lisa, dressing for work (perhaps wishing to be painting?), expressing a longing to be elsewhere, vulnerable in her formality, while in Heavenly Creature (think Scores meets the Venus of Urbino) we find Morgan topless and vamping, rep lips, red nails, erect red nipples — a blatant, distant defiant sexuality — without a trace of vulnerability.
Whether in Berlin or in Brooklyn, the women in these complex portraits are the result of the connection between Morgan and her subject matter and the urgency and the salvation the artist finds through the transformative act of painting. Their beauty and power come from the works unflinching honesty, a result of Morgan’s ability to take risks to reveal the moment these women live in and the past that lead them to this time and place.
12- 18- 17