Natalie Frank’s new paintings are built from fast, fat strokes of color laid down with a physicality that enlivens the bodies she paints in her exhibition “Dancers and Dominas.” The works are filled with dualities, specters and doubles that guide and reflections that reveal casual control.
Submission, manipulation and the exchange of power are threads to be picked up in the paintings. While the dancers seem to be supported, perhaps even encouraged by their spectral others, the dominas are wholly submitted to by their masked men. The masks focus the immediacy of the eyes in these submissives and though power shifts between participants across the paintings, what unifies these individuals is a common light in the eyes, the same human longing for balance, regardless of position or place. Men in submission gaze clearly and with serenity, having relinquished power to their mistresses. It is these men who seem most comfortable in the paintings, under foot or entangled by the limbs of their doms, at peace with themselves in their closed environments. Whoever they are outside of these captured moments is erased, their daily lives left behind, and they find resolution. Perhaps even absolution.
The dancers, however, strive for such harmony, lacking the confidence that comes from total submission to the moment. Their bodies are imbued with strength by Frank’s brushstrokes, but their eyes are less certain. I see these dancers as timider than the doms, younger and waiting to bloom and claim their power. They are on a precipice, trying to find their feet on uncertain ground. And in the midst of a current culture helmed by a sociopathic misogynist, the assertion of the strength of women is essential. Frank’s dominas hold their power out in front of them for their subs and for their younger selves to see, exemplifying what it is to stand firm, whether on the ground or on the chests of faceless men. Once the dancers find their poise, their strength, they too will wield their power over a future that, at least presently, seems to echo their uncertainty. (Damien James)
Natalie Frank’s “Dancers and Dominas” shows through July 7 at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, 118 North Peoria.