Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mir solves painting myth-teries

Wadsworth Atheneum
600 Main St., Hartford, (860) 278-2670
Christopher Mir: Dreams, Memories, Reflections
Oct. 4, 2007—Jan. 6, 2008

There was a good crowd for Chris Mir's opening talk Thursday night in the MATRIX 157 Gallery at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Dreams, Memories, Reflections is Mir's first solo museum show; he has had several solo gallery shows.

Mir spoke off the cuff about his artistic practice, referring to various of the oil paintings to illustrate the points he had to make about his work. The 10 paintings follow, he said, "the trajectory set 10 years ago at Boston University [where he earned an M.F.A. in 1997]—a diorama space where mythic dramas could unfold."

He noted that while at BU he had participated in an exchange program between BU and the Rhode Island School of Design.

"The RISD kids were all about concept first. The idea and the work flows from the conceptual model," Mir recalled. "The way I trained, you get lost inside the painting world and make mistakes and feel your way in the painting." It's a "very romantic, early Modernist" approach, according to Mir.

Mir spoke first of the painting "Generator," painted in the summer of last year. The work shows two figures in Hazmat suits ascending a craggy hill. It was made, he said, in direct reference to a painting of Cezanne's, "Mount St. Victoire." Mir noted that was intrigued by the idea of a mountain being the subject of a painting and found an image of a rocky hill to which he could refer.

Starting with a landscape is his typical modus operandi. He scavenges coffee table nature books and the Internet for imagery. (More recently, he has taken to photographing friends and families as models for many of his constructed scenarios.) He described the "essence" of his practice as "perceiving visual information and translating it into small abstract forms."

"When I see a landscape image that resonates for me, it should look like a stage set," Mir said. Mir then sets about populating his "stage set" with a repertory company of tropes and mythic figures. There are seven elements in this repertory company: the beautiful woman/goddess figure, the God or wanderer ("Jesus, hippie, Charles Manson, 'the dude'—he represents the primal state"), raw nature ("pure, beautiful sublime landscapes"), the child, the "spirit animal," the "corporate menace" ("my fear of being sucked into the moment of climate change or unchecked greed") and magic, "usually represented by little spheres of light."

As Mir tells it, these mythic figures trace their origins in his personal artistic universe to a "formative image" from his early childhood. When he was born, his mother—Mir said she was a "hippie"—hung a painting over his crib. It was a tarot card image of a little boy riding a white horse, the card of the sun.

"It was a very powerful, graphic beautiful image and I grew up with this in my house," Mir said. "That's still burned into the back of my brain."

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