Donnamaria Bruton At Cade Tompkins Projects

Renee Doucette, ART ROGUE ISLAND, October 5, 2013

The postcard from Cade Tompkins Projects about the latest show in the space arrived earlier this week.  I let it sit by my door with the rest of my mail for a day or so and then moved it into my kitchen.  As the week progressed, so did my need to go to an art show where I knew I could really just enjoy the work instead of getting caught up in the worry that I would be let down.  I am never let down at Cade’s shows.  They are like my art recharge button reminding me that I’m not crazy and in Ms. Tompkins’ words “Conviction, perseverance and holding to what you believe to be true is all ok in the name of art.” 


I admittedly didn’t do a lot of work before I went to see the show; I just knew from the images on the postcard, there would be more than meets the eye.  


This work is exactly what I needed to see today. The show starts with a short series of charcoal drawings.  I initially wrote on my exhibition list (big wink) that they reminded me of doodles, but within seconds I crossed this out.  These drawings are more than doodles, which I think I wrote because they are abstract but they radiate this feeling of what it would be like if one could turn their brain off completely, and let their fingers do the talking.  Curves, lines, short, long, the drawings harness something tactical and special and share what was behind Bruton’s wandering imaginative hands.  

Chandelier (1996-98) is another standout in this next section of the show.  Cookie may say “it combines a feeling of passing time and evaporating memories” but to me the work does not feel melancholy (passing and evaporating. perhaps melancholy adjectives?) The red ox-blood color in the work (to be more trendy) is what highlights the light fixture, but Bruton’s abstract details provoke the importance of the activities that usually happen around a chandelier, which are usually hung in formal dining rooms or in front entryways.  The bottom half of the painting has a Grey Gardens before the Maysles movie feel, but I think this is a perfect example of Bruton’s genius.  No one is right or wrong in what they see in the work.  Bruton’s multiple layers and elements never feel busy or sloppy while simultaneously never feeling calculated and contrived.  


A final work I would like to highlight is Conjugating Mary (2010).  At first glance, the knee-jerk might be to see a butterfly or fairy, but the more I kept looking, the more I couldn’t help but see something else.  Bruton was undoubtedly drawn to texture and pattern in all of her work and this is especially clear in this work.  What started as wings, slowly evolved into a clearing fan with wicker blades.  I was transported to the hot summer afternoon on a hand-woven rug on worn wooden floorboards, keeping cool laying on the floor watching the fan.  It may just be my imagination, but in that is the greatness of art.


Donnamaria Bruton’s work is like a serene dream, or better yet, best described like this: “If you close your eyes, you will see a pool of lovely pale colors.  If you squeeze them tighter, the pool will take on different shapes and the colors will become brighter, so bright that in a moment they’ll go on fire and in that moment, just before they do, you will see Neverland, a magic island on whose shores children are forever at play.” (Sir J.M.Barrie)  The art community and her family lost her last year to cancer, but it is clear in this show she has left us with something beautiful.  

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