Jen Heaslip’s oil paintings depict stark, lonely, haunting male figures rendered in soft, charcoal-like paint strokes. The predominately dark, monochrome hues are muted, yet exquisitely rich with ethereal backgrounds counterbalancing the lone figures. These are not nude figure studies—they are men stripped to their bare-naked, vulnerable essence. They are dispossessed of overt emotions and their features are nearly obliterated, evoking a discomforting existence. The men’s detached stares are striking and disturbing. In two works the figures face the viewer, nevertheless maintaining an overwhelming sense of disconnect. Painfully frail and plaintive, they could be Holocaust prisoners waiting to be steered toward heaven or hell. The man in “Four Day” already appears to have passed onto the next world, a vague halo hovering above the ethereal head beneath.
“Two Day” is a particularly moving piece in which a man, adorned with a simple gold crown, turns away from the viewer as if to suggest an unworthiness and reluctance to don this symbol of strength and leadership. Accompanying the male portraits, very small and modest skyscape paintings feel like studies for larger compositions. While atmospheric, they lack the depth, bravura technique and contemplative power embodied in the impressive figure paintings. (Betsy van Die)
Through April 14 at Bert Green Fine Art, 8 South Michigan, Suite 1220.
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