Rêverie: and the kingdom shall be ours to keep

"…The petroleum light threw out its infinitesimal gossamer circles of hazy gold, and the streaks of the bamboos interposed their black notes or dissolved, as I moved my face from or toward the nebulous lullaby in silhouette. …"

-Mina Loy, Transfiguration

I extracted the above from a short story- Transfiguration by Mina Loy for its allegorical description of light and shadow.  There, it has always existed in Mina Loy's writing that elegant sense of poetry between what is physically present and what is mentally perceived as reality unfolds. For similar reasons, I have been liking artist Caris Reid's work for some time now.

Earlier this week, in her studio all my dreams of secret treasures once again revived with the utter most sense of wild fantasy that frolicked among the most exotic floral and mysteriously alluring geometric patterns.  

Madeline
20x24 in., acrylic on wood, 2012
Image courtesy of Caris Reid

Here, Madeline's delicate fingers seem to be trying to transfix the viewers to a land of which is her kingdom, and in that of which you are drenched with the misty desire. It is as if a beam of red orange light that suddenly permeates the sky at dusk, you are now being transported to a place of nostalgia. It is this aspiration for poetry that her work sustains a seduction. There lies a specific kind of beauty, the kind that you dream up in your solitary moments of quiet contemplation.

These dreams are not shapeless or arbitrary. In Caris' works there is always a tension between control and a kaleidoscopic spill of colors and patterns. Even though Madeline is transfixed or is transfixing her viewers, however the technicality of Caris' application of colors and silhouettes present a distinct visual sense of figure and ground. This tension is not only technical of which indicates her eloquent expression as a painter but also in Under Said and Over Sung, it serves as a visual metaphor to separate the different emotional territories of the two women.

Under Said and Over Sung
18x24in., ink and acrylic on paper, 2009
Image courtesy of Caris Reid
For this work on paper, Caris told me that she drew her inspiration after a Jean Rollin film called Les Échappées. To provide a very short description of the narrative, the film is based on a story of two women after they escaped from an asylum and were ravaged by a series of strange events thereafter. While my description probably lacks all of its romance and emotion, however Caris puts all of it back in her drawing. The despondent gaze of the two women seemingly cast off to the distance of an unknown place is then retained by their interior melancholy. This melancholy is then slightly counter-balanced by the very controlled application of the patterning in the background. The mysterious gratification of seeing her work is that although Caris seems to draw clearly to delineate her figure from ground, however the background also seems to be fighting for same kind of attention as what is depicted in the focal point. Especially, if you notice the dragon pattern of the wall-paper behind the two figures; it has been laid down with much meticulousness that you almost willingly let the image take you to another land of fantasy. It seems to symbolize the tamed inner beasts but also manifests itself as a melancholy that transpires their despondent aloofness.

Lucy among leaves. Hawaii
18x22 in., acrylic on paper, 2011
Image courtesy of Caris Reid

Among the wild beauties of nature there surfaces a precocious being. In the work above and the one below shows Caris' artistic signature selections of nature versus beauty. I say this because both the figurative beauty of her subjects and the meditative beauty of nature seem to be competing for the viewers' attention. It is remains ambiguous whether the girl or the boy is enhanced by nature or that nature is enhanced by their presence.

From closely studying these works, I noticed how skillful Caris is when it comes to capturing emotions and describing psychological attributions of her depicted subjects. Each gaze means something specific to her and that as she diligently paints them, they start to mean something all together different to her viewers than those of her own. As the result, her works become richer as they pass through each different gaze of the beholders.

Alan with a crow of flowers
20x24 in., watercolor and gouache on wood, 2012
Image courtesy of Caris Reid

Familiar Gaze
18x22 in., acrylic on paper, 2011
Image courtesy of Caris Reid
Familiar Gaze is one example that makes my point a bit clearer about the gaze.  There is however a back story to this one.  In this piece, the inspiration for the image of the blond woman with a black cat came from a vintage painting that Caris stumbled upon on her way back home with a little girl whom she has been baby-sitting for quite some time.  Each time, they stop to look at the painting while Caris would carry on about how striking it seemed to her, that it went beyond just what was depicted in the painting but something almost mystical.  Later, Caris found out that this image was painted almost like a film still from a film starring Kim Novak called Bell Book and Candle.

Months later for her birthday party, she was presented with this painting as a surprise gift at a restaurant called Bell Book and Candle.  Without anyone's knowledge prior to choosing the location of the birthday party nor her knowledge of receiving the present, a telepathic coincidence took place.  As both the painting being gifted and the restaurant shared the same inspiration and its name- Bell Book and Candle.

Familiar Gaze
being one of her more personal and intimate portraits of people in her life, in this case, the boy friend's gaze echoes by that of Kim Novak's character and the cat.  While a double gaze is taking place between the cat and the cat tattoo of which is on the boy's arm.  And the rest?  Well, some things are best left unsaid.  At least not with words precisely outlining very detail of the story.

Image courtesy of Caris Reid
Like in the last two works, even without any knowledge of the back stories of these people, the works has already enough visual elaborateness for us to indulge in a state of reverie. As for the kingdom? I think I can tell you that story… at the end of my studio visit, we talked of our personal lives and stories. On the subject of love and the solace of my broken-heart, Caris told me that there are two kinds of men; the knight- of someone whom despite all his gallantry is still aimlessly seeking for his next conquest; and the king- of someone whom after many strenuous battles in the field is finally feeling settled in his throne and is ready to share his kingdom. To this, I felt much consolation and almost wished that my studio visit wasn't coming to an end so soon.

Gloria
20x24 in., acrylic on wood, 2012
Image courtesy of Caris Reid
Caris Reid is also a contributing editor and curator for Dossier. She teaches fabulous evening collage classes at The Oracle Club on Tuesdays of every month on the calendar.

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