The Fussy Eye: Paint as a Solid

Making it a sculptural medium.

There's nothing new about freeing painting from representation, but harder is to free paint itself—the fluid, sticky stuff we daub and brush on canvas—from its instrumental role. Paint is merely a medium, a tool, not an entity of its own. But then you see it differently in Margie Livingston's Paint Objects. Here she's poured the acrylic goo into molds, having stirred different hues into a psychedelic mix, and allowed it to harden into solid form. Some pieces are then neatly planed and sectioned like laminated planks of wood; other strips are folded or knotted like ribbons. My favorite is almost a quilt: 90 polychromatic tiles hung on the wall, each square like a Rorschach test with squiggles and paisley swirls. The colors are grouped into families or affinities, something like the periodic table; yet each 8" x 8" tile has its own inter- mingled hues and a shale-like texture. They're like sections of rock, sliced and quarried from some Dr. Seuss planet, congealed from a core of molten candy. Whatever the conceptual intent, Livingston sees a "dumb, empty, easy, unjustifiable beauty" in what were originally just accidental spatters in her studio. In a sense, she's now formalized the old messy byproducts of her art, and annealed them into a lovely grid. 

 
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