Daisy Sheff’s “Hollow Tree Nights”
clearing gallery, los angeles
Through November 5, 2022
Written by Mario Vasquez
Art can be used to recover from trauma. By creating and bringing the viewer into a world created by the artist, art can be participatory in healing. Bay-Area based artist Daisy Sheff’s solo show “Hollow Tree Nights” at CLEARING gallery is a visual voyage through an emotional state of recuperation from grief and sadness. The works are both figurative and abstract. This contradiction acts as a conduit to escape that which is painful. Sheff’s work becomes both an exercise in catharsis and meditation. Using the poetry of H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) and the idea of “over-consciousness,” Sheff’s paintings straddle between dreams, sadness and the eventual healing that is part of the process.
There is no visual logic to Sheff’s paintings. That’s good. The artist is free to explore the emotional and psychological without the constraints of formality or reason. Sheff brings us into the world she creates. Her visual strategy is exemplified in many of the paintings in the show. In “Sungrinning Lemon Vine Thicket” 2022, Sheff uses a bright yellow to imagine a world drenched in sunlight. In this sundrenched yellow scene, flowers and vines decorate the scene as if the figures float, appear, and disappear throughout the work. A few human figures are hinted at by the presence of faces, legs, and what may be hair going down to the top of its shoes. A skunk appears in the lower part as if there’s mischief in the making. The artist is keenly aware of the environment that she has created; a sun shining in a magical land. In “Listening Forest (Dear Matey)” 2022, Sheff utilizes pattern and color to both reveal and obscure the animals, plants and insects that dwell in the artist created forest. Faces of bugs and animals blend into the composition. A pair of shoes appear at the bottom of the painting, as a hand with a pen or brush in the center of the work seems to create the world before us. It is the artist making her appearance. “Chambers of the Sea (Mermaids)” the underwater scene captures fishes and biomorphic forms, which offer hints of where the mermaids are located. Scanning the canvas, faces emerge, and the mermaids are there looking at you. The art is fun and embraces a joie de vivre that wants to bring us to a place that makes us smile. The small sculpture of the artist’s dog at the window says it best, “Dear Dog (I love him).” It is that love that Sheff is expressing.
The love of art, life and the yearning to heal brings Sheff, her art, and us together. The influences of the Nabis movement, especially Emile Bernard, Paul Klee, and of the Bay Area Figurative and Funk artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, William T. Wiley, and Roy De Forest are strong in her paintings. The works are crowded with color, pattern, and figures that both appear and reappear within the space of the paintings. Sheff’s claustrophobic paintings visually force the viewer to look throughout the work rather than placing the focus on one part or section of her paintings. Sheff’s use of figure, abstraction, and the straddling between both, establishes a narrative that brings one into the work. It would be too easy to consider this a form of “happy art” because the paintings come from the point of trauma, however, the enchantment is genuine and profound. Sheff’s art in the end is about catharsis and the desire to meditate and to bring us to other worlds that assist in the ultimate healing.
C L E A R I N G New York / Brussels – HOLLOW TREE NIGHTS (c-l-e-a-r-i-n-g.com)