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Amy Greenan and Elizabeth Leader at WNY Book Arts Center

A Sense of Place

Buckminister Fuller said “ships are vectors.” Painter Amy Greenan is making art that suggests houses” are also vectors, in the metaphoric imaginings of Fuller’s sacred geometry—pointing to a future above, the sky opened, a sense of “up.”

The Western concept of “house” is a vessel, a ship but a ship earth-anchored between earth and sky. Greenan’s paintings probe the idea of what lies on the horizon, to bear witness but not to breach. She gives no floral lyric passages to the sheltering sky; an indifferent weight that masks out ordinary landscape props. Building structure from the ground up, she roots the house to the center of the painting in a palette that is almost incidental. These are not houses looking for a makeover, they are gaunt ciphers, windowed but uninhabited, like Edward Hopper’s but without his slouching denizens, her work casts shadows of a darker intent.

A viewer is inspired to think of houses that inspire imagination; the hand-hewn shack at the center of the antebellum slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Hawthorne’s puritanically dark romantic novel, The House of the Seven Gables, the Southern manse Tara from Gone With the Wind, the house in Amityville Horror, all these iconic edifices have one thing in common, they set the stage for anticipation. Even the house the camera zooms in on at the beginning of The Simpsons gives a sense of setting the stage for events to follow. Amy Greenan sets the stage, its up to the viewer to create an event that gives the vessel fulfillment.

Elizabeth Leader has spent a goodly amount of time kicking around the industrial outbacks of Buffalo’s First Ward with the idea of creating artworks that will speak of lives.

Like a kind of artist/archeologist, she unearths discarded toys, cops, soldiers, aliens, and princesses, tidies them up, sets them in handsomely repurposed photo-diaramic shadow boxes, and lets them shine. Leader researches her found objects with archival care, making a borderline exhaustive account of each die-cast figure, each polymer-extruded figurine from Jim Henson’s Rubber Duckie to fast food trinket Jimmy Neutron’s girlfriend, Connie, astride her atomic-powered sled. Leader’s set-piece installations isolate and highlight each chosen specimen bringing to mind the incongruous notion of adults peering into their own youth as if viewing keys to an ancient world. Barbie, half a Venus, stands erect her bright eternal gaze into imaginary klieg lights bathing her storied incarnation as child’s dream made flesh pneumatic. Leader suggests we need these connective tissues of fantasy to examine our lives. She means to delight, and instruct, always a good motive for making art, hinting but gently that outside the shadow boxes lies a world that does not always sanitize its toys and may make soldiers of it’s children.

Both artists exclude the human element; one in the vestigial aspect of toys that must be played with to be useful, and the other in houses that serve as vessels needing lives to become a home.

j. tim raymond

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