Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Binnie Birstein - "A Wrinkle in Time"

Unlike the work of many people who paint with encaustic, Binnie Birstein's paintings are driven by ideas and emotions that are conveyed both through her imagery and physical handling of the material. She is a painter who utilizes not only the luminous quality of encaustic, but also manipulates the wax into a rugged sculptural surface so that her paintings have both the soft and hard aspects of wax. Binnie is a master of surface and of strange and compelling imagery that draws the viewer in to ponder its meaning.

"Abandoned," encaustic, oilstick and pigment, 20"x30", 2010 (click to view larger)

The painting above, Abandoned, was my favorite in her current show, called "A Wrinkle in Time," at Art Place in Fairfield, Conn. I attended the opening reception on Saturday and first saw the gallery through the window installation. Binnie called the black wads of paper, deer mesh and plastic ties that she made for the window "prickly balls," and their somewhat eerie presence, along with thick chunks of asphalt and a coil of barbed wire, were intended to give the gallery the same dark atmosphere that Binnie renders in her work. (Note: click on any of the images to enlarge them.)

On the wall: "Partner," encaustic and oil stick, 18" x 18", 2010

From Binnie's statement:

My work is dark, ambiguous, dream-like and dissonant with a sense of mystery and unease. My private iconography refers to the darkness in human character, to the evil of war and persecution, to the repetitiveness and uniformity of life in the suburbs, to the loss and despair that life can bring.

Binnie with some of her suburban houses

The title of the show, "A Wrinkle in Time," comes from a novel by Madeleine L'Engle that Binnie read in her childhood. One of the descriptions in the book stayed with her, of a planet called "Camezotz," where all the houses and people were the same, the children played the same game with rhythmically bouncing balls in unison, and conformity was everywhere you looked. This is a vision of post-WWII suburbia, but inside Binnie's row of uniform house-shaped paintings, strange things are happening.

Binnie talking about her work

For Binnie, life is full of ambiguities and dual meanings. Her statement continues:

And yet out of my joy and excitement at working the paint, in layering colors and experimenting with textures and surfaces, and in creating these strange figures and spaces, another side of life emerges. Life also has its pleasures and rewards. 

Three paintings: "Away," "Lost," "Abandoned"

"Away," encaustic, oilstick, pencil, pigment, 22"x22", 2010

"Lost," encaustic, oilstick, pencil, pigment, 22"x22", 2010

These paintings provoke questions: Menacing or protective? Water or air? Man or woman? Dead or sleeping? Wire or vortex? Narrative or abstract? I want the viewer to decide, to think about and interpret the work from his or her own perspective. There are many viewpoints and emotional responses and no right answers.

"Tracings," 18" x 18" and "Uncharted," 20"x30" - both encaustic and oilstick, 2010

The painting is "Sinker," encaustic and oilstick, 20"x30", 2010

This was a powerful show of compelling work. Of course, being a lover of the dark side of things myself, it had extra appeal for me, and since Binnie is my BFF, I was very happy at her success in carrying out her artistic vision. It's surprising how full of joie de vivre and enthusiasm artists can be whose work would seem to convey a much different personality. I wrote about this dichotomy between work and personality with Leonardo Drew. Binnie is the same -- a really fun person with a warm heart who has a rich appreciation of life in all its odd twists and turns.

Binnie at the end of the reception. She also intended her outfit of pearls, silk and heels with makeup and nail polish to create a dichotomy between her appearance and the work itself.

"A Wrinkle in Time" runs until November 20th and Binnie will give a talk on Saturday, November 13th, at 4:00 p.m. Click here to connect to Art Place directions and info.

In the Second Gallery
The second and adjoining gallery at Art Place held another show -- woodcuts by Donald Axleroad based on Greek mythology. Don contends that the myths are timeless stories that contain "the full range of human failings, temptations, sins and virtues" which makes them still relevant to our lives today. (Click images to enlarge)

A wall of colorful and intricate woodcut prints by Donald Axleroad

"Icarus and the Giant Wave"

The Minotaur escaping the Labyrinth

Don Axleroad in front of his work

Don's show will be up until November 20th and he will also be giving a talk on Saturday, November 13th.


Anonymous said...

Wow I love this new work by Binnie! Thanks for the narrative, photos, and the sweet pic of Binnie in her heels. :D

Sharon Barfoot said...

This is an exhibition I would have loved to have seen. Thank you for the interesting post.

Binnie said...

You said everything better than I ever could! Thank you for a fabulous post!

Pamela Farrell said...

Very nice post NN on your BFF's show.

Congratulations Binnie! I love how you've integrated the mixed media 3-D work/installation with the paintings.

You go girl(s)!

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

I remember "A Wrinkle in Time." It was one of my favorites. Binnie's literal and visual comments also make me think of Cat Stevens - "Where will the children play?"

Beautiful work. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations to your friend-

sandrameagher said...

This is a wonderful evocation of Binnie and her work. It captures her warmth and spirit and her creative/explorative side. The photos show the work and installation beautifully. Great job.

Unknown said...

Binnie is such a star. We at Art Place are so proud of her accomplishment here. You did a fabulous job of capturing her energy/joie de vivre. Thank you.
Susan Newbold