Drawn Together

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Maria Dorofeeva

Painting and “The Moment of Wow”

The air in the studio was heavy with toxic fumes of turpentine and other “artistic” odors never meant to be inhaled by human lungs. Not surprisingly, paints, canvases and various building materials were scattered all around the room. But some things clearly appeared to be out of place—the teapot, the stereo, the armchairs, and, oddly enough, an old beaten up mattress. Responding to my evidently perplexed look, Daryl McCurdy, a graduating senior in the Painting and Art History Programs at the University of Illinois replied, “We live in this studio; what did you expect to see?” I assumed she exaggerated when she claimed to “live in the studio”,however, she meant that quite literally. Daryl is sharing her studio with a few other students. Since painting and sculpture in the University of Illinois are united under a single program due to the fluidity of contemporary studio practices, students in the program move between the two media with surprising ease.

Even though Daryl’s own work assumes a variety of forms, such as video and installation, Daryl thinks of her approach towards art and herself, in general, as that of a painter. Daryl’s art has recently experienced a shift from figurative, almost photographic representation to the anamorphic painting, where the position of viewer’s body directly impacts the way in which the image is realized. In her paintings, Daryl is drawn to the idea of faux-finishing and the manipulation of the painterly surface in order to initiate spectator participation. In her previous work, Daryl wanted to imitate reality, while simultaneously intensifying the experience of the real. However, recently she came to believe that something was missing from her art, namely “the problematization of the viewer’s relationship to the painting.”

In her new series of works, Daryl draws viewers into her paintings; the viewer’s participation as integral to the creation of meaning. In Daryl’s own words, one of the principal reasons behind the modern crisis of painting is a fact that paintings have been dictating to the viewer what to think of them for so long. In her work, she wants to relinquish some of that agency ascribed to painting and give it to the viewer.

Daryl has been experimenting and incorporating the anaglyph technology into her work during this last semester, not only as a way to initiate the viewer’s participation in her work, but also to give a new lens to the viewer through which s/he can experience him/herself. Moving away from her more figurative work, Daryl attempts to make objects in her work less identifiable and more intriguing, as not to “shut people off.” Coming from an art historical, as well as artistic background, Daryl is keenly aware of “the baggage” associated with painting. “It used to paralyze me,” she said, “that everything has been done before”. Now she concluded that although referencing other paintings in her own paintings is inevitable, there are ways in which she as an artist can make history less explicit.

To Daryl, what makes the artists continue to express themselves through painting is a need “to physically create images.” On the other hand, the audience’s fascination with painting even into the twenty-first-century is firmly linked to the idea of the uncanny, or as Daryl herself calls it “the moment of wow.” “The moment of wow” occurs the very instant the viewer’s preoccupation with “the objectness” of the piece diminishes and focuses on the experience instead. The viewer now associates with the painting as a physical, tangible thing, while simultaneously experiencing the process through which the artist has gone in order to create the piece, thus empathizing with the artist and participating in the moment of creation. According to Daryl, painting will find its way to thrive in the world because there will always be people motivated by the need to physically create unique objects and those who would want to see them do it. “Painting is real estate,” Daryl states; it is desirable to collectors because it is so easy to put up and show and it cannot be substituted by the new media.