The simplicity of Linda Stark's paintings belie their meticulous construction. Using tiny brushes, she builds layers of oil paint into graphical images rich with ridged patterns, textures, and sculptural effects. Although her paintings are sometimes laced with humor, any irony quickly yields to their earnest, almost obsessive, construction. As Jonathan Griffin writes, “their intensely worked surfaces and shameless beauty seem to speak more of belief, even hopefulness, than bitter skepticism." At a time of global crises and volatility, Stark's paintings offer welcome respite.
Ray (2017) lovingly depicts the artist's deceased cat, Ray, within a glowing blue and pink orb. The orb is painted with no surface texture while concentric ridges of black ripple around it. The contrasting textures allude to the division between the physical and the spiritual. Stark says the painting is a way to process grief after Ray's loss and 'open a portal to their presence.'
Black Hole (2008) is a black-on-black swastika that ominously prefigures The West's hard-right turn of this decade. It physically manifests the flat graphic hate symbol into a thickly textured, sculptural square with an apparently bottomless hole in the middle. The ripples emanating from the hole are entrancing and seem to remind us just how effective Nazi propaganda and ideology has been over the last century-- like some unspeakably sinister curse.
Visitation (1998) shows a pair of pink nipple-like mounds of oil paint on a soft pink gradient background. The fleshiness of the oil paint— a quality valued by many oil purists— is here used to unsettling effect. That the nipples aren't attached to a gendered body is even more unsettling in that the viewer, much like an Instagram algorithm, can’t classify it as either obscene or mundane. Feminism's battle to free the nipple, or more generally promote sexual empowerment, has recently fallen on hard times with Tumblr's policy shift, the passage of FOSTA-SESTA, and the hateful climate enabled by #45. Visitation cleverly pokes at the absurdity and hypocrisy of "female-presenting nipples" being obscene.
Linda is currently hunkered down making new work following a busy 2018. Find her online here.