In her exhibition UNNATURAL LIFE, Elisabeth Condon’s luscious paintings layer vivid abstraction and decorative flowers and birds. These paintings seem at first to be pure pleasure, for they revel in color, paint and compositional complexity. Look longer and uneasiness blooms. The symbols depicted within the paintings bear heady and emotional references to feminism, environmental and national politics. Condon manages this with loaded symbols – bird and flower representations culled from decorative fabric patterns in her mother’s home – and by an extraordinary control over paint’s materiality and color and its emotional range. The symbol is a hook calling for a feminist reading of the history of decoration, especially in the United States, and a feminist critique of North American abstract expressionist painting by extension. Erica Ando writes in her essay about UNNATURAL LIFE:
“Condon’s paintings permit birds, flowers and decoration to sit alongside expressions of angst and tensity, as well as beauty, as part of women’s, and human, experience.” This permission “manifests a feminist acknowledgement of individual experience.”
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