Michelle Blade | "Pansy"

A short review by Jess Mcfadden

I'm just going to say it: Michelle Blade's current show at Nationale is the most mystifying thing ever. How did she do it? Every painting in Pansy is endlessly fascinating, endlessly beautiful. For every two square inches of satin, there are twenty times I ask myself what process -- spiritually, mentally, and physically-- took place in the formation of this work. As if the paintings weren't enough, Blade includes four stellar drawings which translate the allegorical nature of Pansy into a more straightforward, graphic medium.

Touching Balance , 2019, rainbow pencil on paper, 11 x 9 inches

Touching Balance, 2019, rainbow pencil on paper, 11 x 9 inches

The title of the show, Pansy, appropriately describes many aspects of the work. It is proudly feminine, both visually and conceptually. Ripply, floral textures of acrylic ink bleed into satin, resembling 'wet into wet' watercolor painting, or calling back to Helen Frankenthaler's legendary soak-stain technique. Flowers, fruit trees, full moons, and other symbolic images work their way into dreamlike scenes where naked women dance and ponder peacefully. The speckled presence of nighttime alludes to a willful exploration of the unknown. Nothing is concrete except the paintings' beautiful maple frames.

Pansies , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 30.5 x 27 inches

Pansies, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 30.5 x 27 inches

Throughout the work is a feeling of protection. Blade's characters appear in search of something magical (which always involves a bit of risk), but they have the support of each other and of their nonhuman friends. In Springtime Devotional, two people walk together with a dog and owl watching over them, under the light of a full moon. One of Blade's influences for this work is the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, which depicts women as divisive and basically evil. Blade, however, depicts women as collaborative and strong in their pursuit of knowledge. Her work is like an affirmation to viewers, saying "Don't be ashamed. You're on the right path."

Springtime Devotional , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32 x 27.5 inches

Springtime Devotional, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32 x 27.5 inches

Pansy will be on display through June 4, 2019