Chicago Exhibitions. Packer Schopf Gallery. Jeffrey Beebe: When Wishing Still Helped: Adventures in Western Fractoria / drawing. Betsy Stirratt: Half-Light / painting
We are pleased and excited to be exhibiting what I consider to be one of the most ambitious shows we have put on in recent years. Jeffrey Beebe is an extraordinary artist and the mental scope and scale of his two-dimensional work brings to mind artists such as Chris Ware and Henry Darger. Beebe’s expansive exhibition will comprise the large half of our upstairs space, and his more intimate work will be in our downstairs space.
Betsy Stirratt’s paintings are a perfect foil to his concurrent show. The works in this latest series “Half-Light” are intimate in their execution but expansive in their subject matter, richly color driven with a discreet abstraction. The paintings employ a vocabulary of forms reminiscent of early forays into space photography and cellular imaging but retain an allegiance with the blur.
Spanning the last fifteen years, Beebe has created the world of Refractoria, a comprehensive imagino-ordinary world that is equal parts autobiography and pure fantasy. The word refractory has two definitions: One, stubborn or unmanageable, and two, resistant to a process or stimulus or not yielding to treatment.
The initial inspiration for the maps is his interpretation of the mnemonic device called the Method of Loci. Another term for it of late… is Memory Palace. The genesis of this device started with ancient Greeks and Romans . . . In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity composed of a number of discrete locations. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject literally ‘walks’ through these locations and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any distinguishing feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items.
All of the maps—but the city maps in particular—are acts of memory/remembering, and his way of recalling people, places, events, etc. of the particular cities where he lived. Chicago, Indianapolis, NYC. The text in the maps (drawings) comes from emails that were written to him or by him, overheard conversations, books he’s read, song lyrics, poems, etc—all of which was consumed/experienced while living in the city in question: Basically autobiographical information.
Beebe has been writing stories, creating myths, and drawing maps since he was a child. A large part of his visual language comes from the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, supplemented by all kind of fantasy literature/epic mythology. He loved looking at maps where certain areas were noted (ex: The Land of Black Ice) but never discussed in the literature. He fills each drawing with dozens of these leaping off points so they can be revisited and expanded at a later date. In doing so, he’s created the potential for years and years worth of work…..
Stirratt’s recent paintings refer to both the infinite and the microscopic and are ultimately metaphysical. Each picture is a constructed world that utilizes light and dark, and repulsion and attraction to depict ambiguous spaces and atmospheres. The night sky and the smallest molecule are referenced and measured, rendered in both representational and abstract form. Invoking the ghostly, the paranormal and the spiritual, Stirratt creates an immersive environment that invites contemplation. In introducing control over this world by measuring and marking the surface, she makes sense of it.
The paintings are made intuitively, based on research into subjects as diverse as mycology, pathology, botany, memory, imagination, religion and spirituality. These interests inform the treatment of the painted surface, and her fascination with these scientific and spiritual practices lends the graphic and pictorial elements gravity. The paintings invoke a mood of cool sadness.
In exploring historical information about apparitions and hallucinations, she alludes to private and unexpressed thoughts and very personal concerns in these works. The paintings address mourning, sorrow and regret, and loss…. and an acceptance that we will never understand the world. They reference a sadness of what could have been, and also a glimmer of hope of what could be.
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