Ambiguity might lie between sand and shore. Is it wet or dry? But the earth and the sky pull, push and detach. The threshold is withheld and ambiguity recedes. The distinction is further clarified by the difference between a built environment and a sky just hung there. The right angle architecture separates itself from the clearest, deepest, bluest expanse. Have you ever seen a cloud geometric? The cloud and the symmetrical parse, separating into gas and solid.
Lillian Bayley Hoover’s paintings rest within this dispersal of space. The show, For the Moment, displays paintings from a terrestrial vantage – glancing up to an architect top and sky yet cropped there and held. The subject matter comprises everyday glances—ephemeral and banal.
The painting formats are investigative: square, rectangle, thin portrait, thin landscape.
The paintings are oil on wood. Some subject matter is building and sky, but some is drooping power line and blue atmosphere. The paintings are all sky, and shadows of human built environments. The clouds are beautiful (if a person thinks clouds beautiful). There are no sunsets no suns rising. There is no lacy Fragonard’ing, just workaday bootstrap tugging. They are clouds, as romantic as a viewer might like to make them. The clouds roll in, roll out ephemeral and prosaic.
The clouds are painted well. They look like clouds. They look like clouds gathered in a cell phone photo taken quick and easy. The “quick and easy,” part perhaps relating to the show’s title, For the Moment. However, these cell phone photos are curated. The quick snap designed with years of compositional attentiveness. There is a disciplined eye present. These aren’t paintings made from blurry photos. These aren’t paintings made from a camera falling down the stairs. How many of those Moments were disregarded to make these paintings?
While the subject matter is the liminal, the making is anything but. These are worried paintings, crafted over many hours with many layers. The making is a discipline. Hoover is working within a tradition born from spending years looking and drawing, attempting to measure three-dimensional space with two-dimensions. This tradition requires many hours of labor. Many of those hours can themselves become quite banal. Art can be fun, but it is also work, and work can cause a mind to wander into boring places.
The subject of banality foregrounds the context of looking—pushing to the fore the situation of seeing and in so doing, the object mirrors its maker’s making. So to paint the common, the tedium, the everyday, is to declare something about an activity. Painting as a meditation, or a lesson in empathy. Painting as a method in order to empathize with the subject leading to empathy with the maker and potentially any other passerby.
So painting boring things might be a worldview. A world view of work, of seeing, of caring. To esteem the liminal, thereby learning to appreciate the precious or to blur that threshold between the two entirely. Perhaps regarding the no so dear brings perspective to the dearest and allows for an analysis of why something is or is not precious. Perhaps the act of painting then becomes the act of living in that space between sand and shore. To paint to become that mud, ironically the painter becomes like the medium itself.
For the Moment is on view through November 20, 2016 in the Gibbs Street Gallery at VisArts 155 Gibbs, Rockville, MD
Gallery hours: Monday & Tuesday Closed, Wednesday & Thursday noon to 4:00pm, Friday noon to 8:00pm, Saturday & Sunday noon to 4:00pm
For more information call 301-315-8200 or go to www.visartsatrockville.org