Hadley, along with Brent Green and James Surls, is exhibiting in the current show at the Metro State Center for Visual Art. Entitled “Story”, the exhibition “brings together three artists whose artwork has a tale to tell. The exhibition is a profound collection of works that delve into created realities and visually realized narratives of the strange and familiar.”
When I met hadley, 19 years ago or so, I was immediately struck by the incredible layers of meaning in her paintings and sculpture. I remember commenting that nothing in her work is what it seems on the surface. It’s not surprising I suppose, given my interest in stories, that I fell in love with a woman who is a better storyteller than I am. I’m sure the understanding of narrative is part of why hadley is such a successful illustrator, but her paintings are another level of expression, and really where she puts her heart.
Narrative in the visual arts has come back into style since the heyday of the abstract expressionists.Today, I don’t think many people would stand behind this quote from Clive Bell, which he wrote in support of the abstract expressionists non-objective paintings:
The representative element in a work of art may or may not be harmful, but it is always irrelevant. For to appreciate a work of art, we must bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its affairs and ideas, no familiarity with its emotions.
Like a good pop song, the best narrative paintings tell open-ended stories. As Mary Chandler wrote in her review of the show in the Rocky Mountain News, Hadley’s work consists of “lushly textured paintings – paint, ink and toner on Venetian plaster – that follow one of the big rules of art: that work should ask as many questions as it answers”
Kudos to the team at the CVA, who have paired hadley with Brent Green, who creates brilliant animations (as well as working with musicians like Califone and Giant Sand and Fugazi among others), and James Surls, who builds fascinating hanging sculpture; the show holds together really well.
The show opens with a public reception on Thursday, January 10th from 7 to 9pm. More information is available on the CVA website.