michelle blade

In the Garden of Beauty and Mystery I Michelle Blade's "Pansy"

A short review by Lusi Lukova

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Cocoon Dance , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 27 x 28 inches

Cocoon Dance, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 27 x 28 inches

With her debut solo show Pansy at Nationale, painter and installation artist Michelle Blade melds iconic imagery and unruly mediums to demonstrate the unpredictability of painting. Pulling from the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve in the Garden, Blade focuses her artistic energies on Eve, and other feminine mediations of her spirit in these new works. In an attempt to explore the feminine relationship to the land, to knowledge, and to a sense of community, these pieces evoke an almost illustrative and magical quality. Each of these paintings depict large-scale scenes of the garden and the earth in dreamy shades of pinks, blues, and yellows. In the traditional narrative, Eve is scorned for her defiance. However, in Pansy, the expectations are reversed and the unforeseen beauty and strength of the feminine are revered. Just as humans are unpredictable and far from foolproof, in each of these paintings Blade explores a personal coming to terms with how perhaps it was a woman’s doing that set the path forward to everything else but perfection. As a result, Blade navigates our attention to the particular synchronicity humans share in the creation of everything in our immediate and tangible worlds.

Tree of Knowledge , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 31 x 27.25

Tree of Knowledge, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 31 x 27.25

The works presented are all painted on satin, a new format of expression both for Blade and for this historical imagery. The artist deems the material “alive” in that it shifts with each stroke of the brush. Unruly and independent, much like Eve herself, the satin allows the paint to bleed in unprecedented ways, the acrylic ink becoming so fluid that it resembles watercolors over anything else. Due to its sheer nature, it also allows for light to leak through in a similar fashion, adding an ethereal, almost divine luminosity to the works. In the bleeding of the ink, there form abstractions which we can liken to a physical representation of the mysteries of the universe. Presented as meditations on beauty and the natural world, works like Pansies, in which a woman is communing with a snake, are overt in their symbolism while coyly presenting a duality of the female. She may give in to speaking with the snake, but she is also fearless for doing so. As a whole, this exhibition questions these historically gendered tropes and ultimately comes to the conclusion that perfection is not to be neither expected, nor exalted.

Moon Twin , 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 42.5 x 27 inches

Moon Twin, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 42.5 x 27 inches

Michelle Blade’s Pansy is on view through June 4th, with a print release and closing reception on June 2nd, from 12-2pm.

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

Springtime at Nationale

The flowers are blooming! The sun is out! Dogs and babies are all over the place, making us smile whether we want to or not. SPRING IS HERE! 

For the past few months our blog has been in hibernation mode, watching documentaries and brewing plans for the future like everybody else. We've been having a good time here at the gallery, though.

In February, Lilian Martinez brought her beautiful pastel portraits up from L.A. Her show Soft Shades portrayed women of color, relaxed yet powerful, in comfortable domestic settings.

Lilian Martinez,  Woman Reclined,  2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches.

Lilian Martinez, Woman Reclined, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 inches.

From March 15 to April 23, Shohei Taksaki shared with us a collection of colorful, bold, abstracted domestic scenes in his show Where did you sleep last night? He installed an 11 ft. tall painting diagonally, leaning from the floor to the ceiling. It completely changed the shape of the gallery, and provided a comparison to think about: loved ones are kind of like huge, amazing, complex paintings that we can only see from a slanted angle. Living with a partner, even sleeping beside them each night, we can never fully understand their experience because we are limited by our own perspectives. In addition to the large painting, Shohei delighted us with a variety of smaller works, including one piece that was half sculpture, half painting.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition,  Where did you sleep last night?  First installation.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition, Where did you sleep last night? First installation.

For the last week of Takasaki's show, we reinstalled his work in a more "traditional" manner. The giant painting hung straight on the wall, and some of the smaller paintings changed positions in the gallery. 

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition,  Where did you sleep last night?  Second installation.

Shoehei Takasaki’s exhibition, Where did you sleep last night? Second installation.

This past week, we've enjoyed a pop-up by local artist John Petrucelli: A kid from Chicago. John has been a warm presence in the Portland art scene for decades. He's worked as a teacher, explored wonders of the world, and worked in an art warehouse where he began experimenting with unusual materials. We wanted to honor his lifelong practice of experimentation, as well as his love for storytelling. For every day of the pop-up, John has come to co-host happy hour and visit with the community. 

John Petrucelli with the largest piece in his pop-up,  A kid from Chicago.

John Petrucelli with the largest piece in his pop-up, A kid from Chicago.

Coming up next: Michelle Blade! This artist works in painting, illustration, sculpture and installation, with a dreamy style. (If you'd like a preview of her work, click here!) We're excited to share her work with you all, May 3 through June 4. Please join us for her opening reception Sunday, May 5 (3–5pm).

Michelle Blade,  Springtime Devotional,  2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32.75 x 28.25 inches

Michelle Blade, Springtime Devotional, 2019, acrylic ink and paint on satin, 32.75 x 28.25 inches

If it's been awhile since you stopped in Nationale, we hope to see you soon. We've got new books, a new issue of Apartamento, and smiles infused with the finest Vitamin D. 
—Jess

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