Contemporary paintings reflections of modern and classical art


By Tiffany Riggs, Assistant Section Editor

Modern and historical references combine for dramatic contrast in Hardcore Painting: Confessions and Premonitions by Julie Farstad and Jessie Fisher, the UNO Art Gallery’s first fall semester exhibition. The exhibit, which features contemporary paintings, began Aug. 26 and will end Sept. 28.

Farstad and Fisher are both assistant professors of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute. As a feminist painter, Farstad portrays influences of popular culture and psychoanalysis of girlhood drama in her work. In contrast, Fisher’s figurative painting and use of rich color resembles the late Renaissance era.

“They represent somebody who has a very deep respect for the history of painting,” Fisher says of her work. “That’s what they’re all about is an attempt to place myself in a tradition rather than critique it or commentate on it.”

Grotesque, multi-eyed farm animals, referencing mythological beasts, contrast dramatically with ornate backgrounds of intricate wallpaper designs in Fisher’s Hanging Hooves on Wallpaper and in Double Killing Wall.

“I was reading about mythology and I wanted to have symbolic subject matter without narrating something,” Fisher said.

One recurring motif in Fisher’s works is flowers, symbolizing the passing of time in each open bloom or fallen petal. Another motif of soft, Titian-like landscapes of muted colors provides backdrops to several of Fisher’s compositions, including a few self-portraits. Through the use of indirect painting, a method of layering colors, Fisher creates beautiful optical effects.

Fisher recently completed a ceramics residency where she created figurative ceramic sculptures. In the future, Fisher plans on creating a life-scale skeleton for a life-size composition.

Farstad’s modern work provides contrast and psychological complexity to the exhibit. Several of Farstad’s paintings feature dolls, symbolizing girls, contrasted against backdrops of saturated neon green or bubble gum pink. Farstad says the different color schemes separate the objects into different realities, but the narrative is forced into a single fantasy.

“I am getting increasingly interested in the landscape and in the way that spaces are metaphors for states of being,” Farstad said.

A collage of photographs, Play-Doh and dolls narrate the psychoanalysis of girlhood games, a recurring theme in Farstad’s work. Play-Doh is a material that Farstad started using out of necessity. When she lacked a cat and a car she made her own cat using Play-Doh.

Farstad said her paintings often reference real life experiences. Miracle in the Bedroom is a product of a specific memory from her childhood that centers on glow-in-the-dark rosary beads. She Wants Inside is inspired by a game her niece asked her to play.

“When we play with things we are playing out our identity, we are playing out our traumas, we are playing out different scenarios to see how we would handle them,” Farstad said.

In the future, Farstad will feature smaller three-dimensional cutout pieces in her work and explore themes of humiliation.

Farstad and Fisher will discuss their works Sept. 28, at noon, in the gallery, in conjunction with the exhibition, which will close at 1 p.m. after the presentation.