Heraldry and the days of valiant knights are now legendary. Everyone dreams of their knight in shining armor to save them and the pageantry of it all is a fixation of masculine ideals still held subconsciously. One artist dared to ride into battle to explore this revered ideal of masculine pageantry. Karen Heagle presented her bold and brash works on paper for the show Battle Armor at CHURNER and CHURNER last May 8th.
AF walked into the gallery filled with large scale work that charges onward and unflinching in its depiction of trappings on the masculine ideal. We see motorbikes (the rebel), peacock preening (the dandy), and knights in armor (the hero) in large scale works on paper that charge fearlessly like an unbeatable knight in a joust. One is confronted by the strong impact each image Heagle created and the fruit of her inspiration from 17th Century paintings bore a new interpretation for the now.
There is the lush opulence of using copper and gold leaf symbolizing the luster of metal where the acrylic paint and colored paper become punctuated embellishments to fully realize Heagle’s bold interpretation. The iridescent palette and its swarthy strokes recall a Peter Max color sensibility but Heagle makes it her own by her crisp execution in the composition. Every aspect is overcharged and seething with the undercurrent of what’s roiling underneath it all.
It is quite a feat of courage and to have balls for a queer female artist to tackle head on the idea of masculinity. Putting gender and sexual orientation aside, it is ludicrous to think that male can only paint macho stuff and females do the softer side. It is a load of bull as artists who express an ideal with deliberate intent and solid skill can paint anything they want. Heagle, like a knight on a valiant quest, has slain the dragon of this stereotypical and archaic thought.
And that is the real prize to be won here when the artist has ridden into the trenches of the never explored and boldly rides on ready to battle. Like the trappings of masculinity, it is all a veneer when it is what’s inside that counts. Heagle has stripped her own armor and is bravely exposing herself as a fearless artist. That is one suit of armor that will never tarnish and should be worn proudly.
Karen Heagle: Battle Armor / On View: May 8 – June 22, 2013
Gallery Hours: Tuesday – Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
CHURNER and CURNER. 205 10th Avenue. NYC, NY 10011
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
art image from CHURNER and CHURNER courtesy of the artist
event photography by: Deukyun Hwang