"Mettle" A Solo Exhibition by Danielle Coenen
At The Wallace L. Anderson Gallery
Bridgewater State University, MA
November 2021 - February 2022
I’m drawn to the face because of its inherent psychological weight. Primarily working from images of women that I find, I think of my work as simultaneously portraiture and self-portraiture, projecting myself onto another. The image is a base for me to visually and conceptually illustrate dualities, harmonizing realism and abstraction, combining characteristics of paint and mark making. When rendering the face I work tightly from my reference, which requires patience and careful observation. The abstract marks are of the opposite sentiment - a lot of paint throwing and spontaneity, using several paint mediums, tools, and gestures. The faces dissolve into abstraction - soft but bristly glows of spray paint, sharp pastel marks, oil applied in various ways. The painting expresses something that is both simple and complex. The image is straightforward, yet within the paint there are many colors, textures, and expressions of the hand mingling, representing the subtle complexities of one’s inner world that can be experienced with more careful attention.
Alongside my ongoing body of work, this exhibit unveils a new series of small paintings on 19th century cabinet cards. They began as a pandemic-induced experiment, when my connection to the work I was making was severed and I was toying with ideas that were small enough to work on in quarantine. Flipping through hundreds of these faces, I realized their connection to the current events: mass numbers of people with no names, recalling a time period where a global pandemic was something that might be expected in one’s lifetime. The feelings and conversations happening at the beginning of the pandemic were reminiscent of this era: food and essential supplies were scarce, an economic depression loomed, and our fast-paced modern lifestyles came to a halt, renewing modes of the past. Now recycled into contemporary paintings, these cards maintain their antique charm and are presented as artifacts straddling a balance between old and new.