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Words and Pictures

Seductive strangers in the paintings of Jennifer Mawby

The vantage point of Jennifer Mawby’s paintings cast the viewer as voyeur. The subject of our gaze is obstructed, we don’t have a clear view of the entire scene or even a context. Figures come into view. They are repulsive yet seductive strangers. 

Evidence of a neon pink ground courses around the edges of the strangers giving motion to their freeze frame stasis. Echoing the vividness of digital screen color, there is a backlit quality to Mawby’s palette that fights against her contrasting layers of earth toned pigment. This tension is further underscored through her energetic mark making, imbuing the paintings with motion – our awareness of the angle each sprawling limb cuts against the confines of the rectangular picture plane is heightened. The grotesque strangers are entangled in a dance that seems both sexual and savage whether they appear partnered or alone. 

In company with artists such as Cindy Ji-Hye Kim, Jim Nutt and Julie Curtiss, Mawby utilizes the docile commonplace of the cartoon image to cajole the viewer into the scene with erroneous serenity. The careful attention paid to the way fabric is stitched, a fishnet is woven and a leather boot shines elicits a quirky personality diffused with an undercurrent of more sinister symbolism. Mawby’s tight cropping of dynamic postures allow us to consider the part as representative of the whole, the individual as part of the universal. The strangers become familiar Jungian archetypes. The doleful slump of two denim clad legs punctuated by a pair of cowboy boots suggest the everyman or the outlaw while the provocation of a thigh-high red leather boot conjures the anima or the devil. Mawby’s lush satirical paintings are as seductive and playful as they are psychological. Her work contemplates the dissonance of social perception, identity projection and the authentic self.

About the artist: Jennifer Mawby is a contemporary artist and sometimes curator and art writer with a focus on projects for artists using accessible language. Jennifer is the co-founder and director of Vantage Art Projects. Her work can be found here: www.jjtmstudio.com and on Instagram: @jenniferjeanmawby.

About the writer: Hannah Antalek graduated from The Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in painting and a concentration in art history. Hannah is a recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant and completed residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and the Studios of Key West. Her most recent exhibition was at Spring/Break Art Show. She currently works out of her studio in The Brooklyn Navy Yard. Her website is: hannahantalek.com and her Instagram profile is: @hannah_antalek.