Liminal Manifestation explores the practices of two painters whose careers have intersected with Charlottesville, VA.: Lindsay McCulloch is a graduate of the University of Virginia and J.M. Henry has frequently exhibited his art in the region. Like J. M Henry, McCulloch layers paints to play with the possibilities of pigment and color vibration but with very different results and intentions. The primary premise behind the Without Boundaries series according the McCulloch is the layering of imagery to create a dialogue between memory and time influenced by technology. Each piece becomes a cross-section of thoughts going on in her head at any given time. These works are the product of her refocusing attention on the materiality of paint and qualities such as opacity, transparency, texture and illusory space via a shaped surface projecting from the wall. A major departure from the rectangular picture plane, McCulloch explores the painting as an object representing an complete idea unto itself beyond simply a window. We caught up with McCulloch about individual paintings in the exhibition and her thoughts on the Without Boundaries series.
Without Boundaries Statement
I often feel like my work inhabits a paradoxical state – suspended between supposedly contradictory ideas. For instance, I desire the freedom of gesture and abstraction, yet want to exert control over every aspect of my creative process. I create maximalist compositions, but then seek out larger shapes to simplify my work. I gravitate toward both order and chaos. I want to simultaneously embrace and deny pictorial illusion. But most of all, I love the tension that exists in the boundaries between all of these opposing forces.
Over the past year, I have been experimenting with this life on the edge – this hazy area in between one thing and another. The resultant body of work is about my creative process. The artwork is self-referential and rooted in a deep love for paint in all of its facets – its history, color, texture, materiality, translucency and physicality. The work pays tribute to the lineage of painters that came before, but also denies convention. I am embracing the history of my medium without being beholden to it. I am working instinctually and without judgement. I am allowing myself the freedom to work without boundaries.
Lindsay McCulloch , 2018
Notes on Without Boundaries Paintings in Liminal Manifestations
Just Like Heaven:
This piece was a re-envisioning of one of my Interference paintings. I was intrigued by distilling an idea down to its essence, and the piece feels like a memory of a memory in many ways. I was playing The Cure in my studio at that time, and the painting is named after their song by the same title. Like the song, the painting has a lot to do with being in love and “spinning on that dizzy edge”.
The irregular red grid in the painting was derived very loosely from a Sigmar Polke painting I saw at David Zwirner in New York. His painting is called Magnetische Landschaft (Magnetic Landscape) and is painted on fabric (though in Polke’s piece the grid is white and the surrounding area is red). Something about the simplicity of the red gridded fabric background juxtaposed with Polke’s light paint washes and drips really spoke to me. The fact that the grid is imperfect and breaks away in passages is perhaps the part that interests me the most – I like the idea that this structure that the painting hangs on appears stable from a distance, but falls away as you get closer.
This painting is about letting go – about trusting my instincts and not worrying about the outcome. The large heart-like gestural shape in orange and pink in the middle was painted directly from observing some remnant paint on my palette. I had been mixing the paint with a palette knife to apply on another painting and I stopped and thought, “I really want to make a painting like that”, and so I did. I don’t often title paintings after songs, but this piece was named after the Tom Petty song “Free Falling” because it seemed appropriate.
Back Up is a painting about painting. It is about mark-making and illusion and the artifice of creating a painted surface.
Splatter was my first shaped panel painting, and the first piece in this series. The painting started in a very different way. Though I began with a plan, I found myself struggling to relate the paint to the shape. Then these painted drips started to materialize and the picture started to come together really quickly. There are elements of landscape in the background (parts of a tree, sky, and grass). But everything is being consumed by these red drips. You can read whatever symbolism into it that you would like – blood, paint, an act of violence or an act of freedom. This painting can be a beginning or an ending, and that really appeals to me.
Lessons in risk and reward:
When I began planning this piece, I was reading David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers. I was inspired by Orville and Wilbur’s ingenuity, and their drive to persevere despite incredible odds. The shape of this painting is actually based on a photograph of one of their early crashed planes. You can clearly see a painted version of the black and white photograph in the background. An irregular grid is juxtaposed on top (a loose reference to the grid in Sigmar Polke’s Magnetic Landscape) and then trompe l’oeil gestural paint marks form the final layer of the painting. For me, this piece is about painting as a construct – about artifice and illusion. But the piece is also about a deep-seated desire to innovate and to persevere.
This piece is layered with meaning. The shape of the painting was inspired by yet another photograph of one of the Wright Brothers’ early crashed planes. Super-imposed over that is the pattern from my four-year old daughter’s Wonder Woman pajamas. The final layer in the piece is a trompe l’oeil stripe of vivid colors that appears to be smeared across the painting by a palette knife. While painting this piece, I was thinking about hopes, dreams and inspirations. And the idea of hard work was melded somewhere into the painting as well, as the phrase ‘earning your stripes’ kept running through my head.
In this painting, I was revisiting a theme that developed in my Interference painting Sleepless Nights (Fall). In that painting, a blue grid formed the basis for a night sky scene filled with a constellation of stars. The piece was painted after the birth of my second daughter, and was about those moments of extreme sleep deprivation when everything and nothing is clear. When thoughts and words move between reality and dreams and everything seems confused. The bright colors and play on spatial illusion, vibration and movement were meant to further add to this dreamlike, other-worldly quality.
In Constellation, I wanted to revisit this theme but in a more simplified way. There are fewer colors in this painting, and they are bolder. A tension exists between the flat washes of paint that form the grid and the thick impasto paint that forms a cloud-like pattern across portions of the painting. The colors are meant to have their own vibration and pulse that feed the energy of the painting. For me, the white grid becomes a stand in for the constellation of stars – a pattern to simplify the infinite complexity of the night sky.
More about Lindsay McCulloch
Lindsay McCulloch received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from the University of Virginia, and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from Boston University. Her work includes paintings, works on paper and artist books. McCulloch has exhibited her work internationally in England, Spain and Iraq. Her work has also been featured in museums and galleries across the United States including the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond Museums in Richmond, VA; the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, MA; Bowery Gallery in New York City, NY; Fraser Gallery in Bethesda, MD; Linda Matney Gallery in Williamsburg, VA; and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX; among others. McCulloch holds various awards, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship, a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship for Painting, and the Art New England Award at the Boston Printmakers North American Print Biennial. Her work is featured in public and private collections in the United States and abroad, including the Iraq National Library in Baghdad, Iraq and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX.
For more information about McCulloch and her work, please visit www.lindsaymcculloch.com. You can also find her on Instagram under the handle @lindsaymccullochart .