At first glance, both the subject and style of Carly Silverman’s work in her exhibition “Party Time!” may seem retardataire: oil on canvas scenes primarily depicting women entertaining in domestic situations, executed in a lovely, painterly manner. The charming yet energetic compositions make the eye travel and follow Matisse’s call for painting to “provide relaxation from physical fatigue.”
Silverman’s scenes could belong to the 1950s, but they also address contemporary issues of womanhood. A lack of detail in the women’s faces lend them feelings ranging from ambiguity to psychological tension, making it unclear whether they entertain with enjoyment or serve as unwilling elements in the ornamental landscape. Silverman’s decorative world lies close to reality. Today’s women have opportunity, desire and added expectations to succeed in public and in the workforce, and these paintings suggest that domesticity, in the shape of decorating cupcakes, setting out fruit, and blowing up balloons for birthday parties, are less publicly acknowledged but still present activities for women.
Do Silverman’s abstracted faces suggest personal emptiness rather than fulfillment in domesticity? Perhaps, unless you want to just grab a cupcake and enjoy the party. (Anastasia Karpova)
Through June 30 at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, 325 West Huron
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