Intense Color, Feminist Perceptions, and Compelling Experience: Zara Monet Feeney’s Suspension of Disbelief
LA Artcore Brewery Annex, Los Angeles
through September 28
Written by Genie Davis
At LA Artcore Brewery Annex through the 28th, Zara Monet Feeney’s dazzling use of color and texture are just one part of the stories she paints in her solo exhibition, Suspension of Disbelief.
The show portrays rich, tactile images that seems to seep off the canvas and join the viewer in the gallery. Presented work includes both rectangular wall art paintings and un-stretched paintings that spill onto the floor. Her traditionally stretched works feature what the artist describes as “hyper-detail precision;” accompanying installation works are less focused on the perfection of realism.
The contrast between the two types of work Feeney presents here challenges the eye, and creates an immersive experience in the gallery. Combined with her inventive use of light to enhance the dimensionality and intense color of her works, the full exhibition feels like a single, visceral installation. Feeney relates that her installations “look as if a painting exploded and its 2D illusion became tangible. Playing with optical trickery, some of the painted forms that normally would appear three-dimensional if hung flat, by bending them in a concave way, [it appears that] the dimensionality of the work compresses.”
She uses large splashes of paint, loosely applied, causing the intensity of each composition to fluctuate in a highly original way. Feeney also uses a variety of colored lighting to exaggerate cool and warm tones; black lights “pop the neon colors” as she puts it.
Her uniquely dimensional work gives the viewer the sensation they can feel the represented fabrics, see the glitter of faceted gemstones. The largest works take viewers through a veritable forest of color.
According to Feeney, “I feel there is a specific moment when we believe an illusion or become seduced by something outside of ourselves. When this happens, we are not looking at something, but looking at ourselves perceiving it. By challenging traditional modes of representation and exploiting optics of value and color, I hope the viewer will call into question the generic way a painting is received.” In short, she wants her work to be involving and immersive – and it is. “Ultimately, I want to set up a curious visual experience for viewers, where they can actively engage in reflexive looking.” Describing her work as designed for a reexamination of everything from the male gaze, voyeuristic composition, to socio-sexual empowerment issues, she adds “As a queer feminist, I design my work to engage very strongly with historical and contemporary notions of intersectional feminism and patriarchal authority.”
Feeney’s work is influenced by, and occasionally borrowed from French Academic paintings from the 1700s and 1800s, in which women, serving as a painter’s muse, were objectified.
“I use a spotlight or a curtain to re-represent these paintings with a more feminist and queer perspective, making the subject to be in control and not even meant for the male gaze,” she relates.
Her posed subjects are created in an intense highly saturated color palette that she describes as “non-naturalistic…the spatial play is ambiguous. I skew the locus of composition, reverse the light logic, exploit value relationships — all in hope to present a mysteriously contrived yet intriguing aesthetic.”
To this viewer, the overall perception of her work is of an almost intuitive nature. Drawn to her color, to the dynamic textures she creates, to the layering, the viewer metaphorically dives between the folds of her fabrics.
In Suspension of Disbelief, some works present figurative representations with surrealist elements; others appear like flowers and fireworks, with heightened color, and a playful aesthetic. Faceted gemstones glitter and shine, and fall to the floor, where they seem to shimmer and dissolve, reminding the viewer of sparkly candies, melting. In other works, sequins dance and wink, larger than life, like confetti and petals. The brilliant reds, oranges, and golds of the hyper-realistic – yet surreal in perspective, with abstracted elements — bag pipes and kilt cloth of “The Pipe Master” resembles a living dream.
The exhibition’s over-riding, even dazzling intensity creates a pure pleasure in its color and texture, both so heightened. Feeney relates that she loves painting fabric and other “visually eye-catching surfaces, such as diamonds, rubies, satin, velvet, metal. I love surfaces that have candy-like qualities and how they bend and twinkle within illusionistic space.” Her work here equates both pure enjoyment for the viewer, and a much deeper, more contemplative need to reevaluate what one is seeing, to absorb it’s meaning.
“I like when different layers come through and others are covered. I love dancing between the line of recognizable and abstract; this comes naturally for me and is my favorite part of the painting process. I like to leave the recognizable forms unfinished, so there is always room for them to melt into abstract forms or the void of empty space.”
Feeney’s pure saturation of color comes in part from the fact that she makes and remixes and re-tubes all her own paints. “I have absolute control over exactly how vibrant or deadened a color will look. My goal is to have the ability to have both incredibly slow or incredibly fast shifts in color.”
This astonishing and involving exhibition will have its closing reception September 28th, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Viewers can see more of her work in the group exhibition Lumen, now at Mash Gallery; Feeney has a solo show upcoming at the Museum of Art and History: CEDAR, in Lancaster, January 2021.
She is also curating a group exhibition at Carnegie Art Museum Studio Gallery, Oxnard in January 2020; and appearing in the group exhibition Women by Women 2020: Depictions & Interpretations by Los Angeles-Area Women Artists, opening January 18th , 2020, at South Los Angeles Contemporary Gallery (SoLA).