“In the last few years, my grandmother’s memories have been slipping away from her. I hold her close to my heart, but I can feel the distance between us widening. I am at the periphery of her foggy world. Despite losing her memory, she is always so happy and surprised when I came into focus. I often wonder how she experiences her world. Does she live in a colorless, blurry haze to have it punctuated by bursts of kaleidoscopic remembrance?
These paintings are a record of an experience, a feeling. In a familiar space, both the presence and the absence of the figure are equally palpable. A portrait may begin with the person sitting in front of me or a transient smile over FaceTime, and all that might get buried under layers of painted recollection of how the sun felt the day he sat there. My mixed media work is painted from observations, layered with sharp and hazy memories and recorded snapshot photos. With each painting, I am constantly re-establishing my relationship with the subject matter, being especially conscious of my physical and emotional distance.” - Kathy Liao, 2017
Much of Kathy Liao’s work has narrative attached to her images. Gallery co-director Norman Lundin writes:
“One of the challenges facing narrative painters is finding the balance between the content (i.e. telling the story) and the form (the actual painting). Content, if emotionally loaded, can drown the form resulting in the viewer being aware of only the imagery. The reverse is true as well when form alone can overpower the narrative and fail to attract and sustain the viewer’s interest. Eric Fischl’s work often contains quite emotional content but his painterly abilities are strong (he is a superb composer), and he succeeds in striking a balance. Paul Fenniak and of course Edward Hopper also come to mind for their ability to hit the mark in this difficult balancing act.
Finding the sweet spot in this formidable artistic conundrum is Kathy Liao’s task as well. She has a compelling story to tell in her work about maintaining intimate human connections in an increasingly large and complicated world, and she has the formal skills to do so with verve and imagination. Because she knows what she’s doing visually, Liao’s work is lifted rather than sunk by the power of her narrative. Take for example these two small works on paper. The painting So Close and So Far, an image depicting a computer conversation via FaceTime, with the small rectangle of the artist in the upper left overlapping the larger image of her grandmother, demonstrates Liao’s talent for visual invention. Similarly in Scrolling Up and Down, an image of a passenger on a subway scrolling a smart phone, she has juxtaposed the figures in a manner that would please Degas.“
The emphasis of this show will be on Liao’s paintings. She works in a variety of sizes, in oil and water-based media, as well as collage on both canvas and paper.