Lindsay Frei (15th Street Gallery)

beauty myth

Referring to her “Green Cups,” well-known Salt Lake City artist Lindsay Frei says “I wanted a little more room to experiment. It’s very similar in subject matter to what I used to paint, but the way I painted it, I enjoyed it a lot more, and I feel a lot more confident with painting, and I’m not so afraid of making mistakes. I wanted that freedom because I think it lends itself to creativity, to be able to explore, and I needed to get some things out of my system.”


Frei’s past and present oeuvre- albeit now with an MA from the University of Utah, and more confidence and knowing, with herself, method, and philosophy- is generally relegated to still life and portraiture. This always has and will always have astonishing reality. This reality is not simply a technical approach to painting, but a total reality, that captures the beautiful in nuances of the ephemeral.


Like the earliest Moderns, whose philosophy was to capture an essence in the immediacy of a moment, Frei has focused on the immediacy of her subject, representational of vicissitudes of the beautiful, be it candid glimpses of a model, a rose, or a rubber ducky. “Don’t you love that yellow?” asks Frei enthusiastically and rhetorically. For those who paint the ephemeral, there is a profundity in the moment, as that moment signifies the purity and essence of reality, in the context being represented.


Says Frei, “I have always struggled with the idea of beauty as an artist, and as a woman, and how I can relate to it. I was really taught that it was essential to my happiness, and I started to figure out that that was a lie. The kinds of satisfaction you get from seeking something that is just externally beautiful, is not as lasting and not as satisfying, as really connecting with something.” Again, Frei is seeking the reality of her subject, and this time the subject is beauty itself.


“The Painted Edge,” to open on the 12th, is a showing of Frei’s new work. The subjects still have the same ephemeral quality. They are the same vicissitudes of reality as her subjects have always been, but not an oblique exploration of beauty, but each addresses the subject of beauty directly. Further, says Frei, “I started looking at my paintings and thinking about them, and what I am doing with paint, because I feel like I am a painter first. There is a big interplay with soft edges and hard edges. The paint itself has edges and the subject matter has edges,” what Frei understands as “reflective of the dignity of life as it changes. Something is beautiful as it changes because everything will.”


The experience with the paintings and the play of edges creates a transcendent experience. Each piece is evocative of beauty through an emotional responsiveness, caused by the physicality and the emotive element of hard and soft edges. “Unbearable” has a hard emotional edge with softer painterly edges. The moment is intense, with the ephemeral quality disregarding narrative content; concerned only with the subject and her immediate evocation of beauty, and the context of the beautiful being referred to. For example, “I think I am talking about our differences,” says Frei, “of the desirable vs. the undesirable. Does that have to be a hard edge? There is a lot of room in between.”


“Veiled Beauty” is an immensely evocative image, which is experienced by the viewer with a verisimilitude in its ephemeral aspect to the context of the beautiful, with an uncanny truth. Says Frei “You kind of have a sense that she is beautiful. There is an outline of a beautiful woman, but she is unidentifiable. She has a presence and a non-presence at the same time, and I think that’s a lot of how ideal beauty works.” Frei likes to think of her paintings, not as individual pieces but an idea that is flexible with her painting method, and how her ideologies are able to express varying subjective and objective conceptions, idealizations or misconceptions of beauty. “It is a dialogue,” she says. A softer edge in the dialogue is “Soft.” “Soft” is ghostly in its muted quality, and its beauty, like the beauty in each of the subjects, is ineffable.


For most of the subjects, the emotive aspect granted by the transcendent nature of each, is made possible by the reoccurring motifs of monochromatic color palettes, drapery, lace, and minimal approaches to channel raw, unaffected feeling. Says Frei “It’s about the ideals and not about identity. It’s about the taking on these characteristics. We don’t see her, yet she’s beautiful. “Surveyed” is the epitome of a fashion icon with no personal individuality. And this is just it. It is about the ephemeral reality relating to the context of beauty, and not an illusion of a particular state of being of beauty.


Says Frei, “I don’t think I’ve come to a resolve, but I think I am more comfortable with the idea that I don’t have to be resolved, and that it’s an ambiguous thing. For a long time I just wanted answers, and that’s not how creativity works. I think it’s an important subject to talk about in terms of edges because edges are constantly shifting.” For Frei, as mentioned, she is a painter first, dealing with issues of aesthetics, and she is also a woman first, dealing honestly and courageously with realities of what it means to be a woman. These ephemeral glimpses are timeless and they are truthful, and Frei loves the journey of being an artist, and learning and exploring and discovering.    



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