Brenda York has drawn and painted faces for as long as she can remember. For the past few years, however, she says she has “become interested in deconstructing the architecture of the face to see how far (she) can abstract it and still capture the intangible human qualities.” The resulting faces are both whimsical and compelling. The work is fun and playful but also serious. York sees art as “an attempt to make sense of our common human-being-ness.”
The two fabulously fantastical paintings currently on display in the 20/20 show pay tribute to the Earth Mother. In Greek mythology she brings forth the primordial sea and sky. Wise and fecund, she is both guardian of the wild and mother of many gods. In one painting she gestures to the sun and the moon; in the other she holds an armload of rain clouds. Puzzling white charcoal markings dance across the richly colored surface of these paintings — modern hieroglyphs, scientific symbols, words, phrases and nonsensical mathematical equations. Mysterious signifiers shaken loose from what they signify, they provocatively resist our interpretation. One says “A lie is just a lie,” another “Scenic Route,” and still another “Lost Again,” with a simple drawing of a compass. There is a childlike drawing of a rocket ship, a wishbone, a ladder leading nowhere. Although the effect is lighthearted, the overall impression is of a world where language and symbolic meaning have fragmented in a way that parallels York’s deconstruction of the face. We sense that the white markings are not merely decorative. Yet, interrogate them as we will, we are rewarded with only a flickering comprehension. In York’s “attempt to make sense,” it would seem the teasing pleasure of the attempt is more important than the sense we might make.
Brenda York has over 35 years of experience in visual art. In addition to her paintings, she also creates quirky and colorful wall sculptures; and she is the author/illustrator of the art book Big Little Paintings, Short Little Stories (Blurb, 2014). When not in her studio, she teaches popular classes and workshops at Art on 30th here in San Diego. Recent topics have included finding one’s visual “voice” and online art marketing.