The Fussy Eye: Sky of Tiles

Rendered as a grid on a wall.

Five hundred squares, measuring six by six inches each, fill an entire gallery wall. No two of the miniature paintings by Linda Davidson are alike. Indeed, there’s no suggestion in Ormolu that they’re even related by subject or motif. Rather, ormolu is a traditional process for gilding bronze objects—a decorative amalgamation. Davidson has painstakingly rendered each square in a variety of media and colors; several are gold in hue. But when you stand back—and everyone does, about 20 feet from the wall—the dominant tone is blue. The eye craves a pattern, and the evenly spaced squares suggest a hole in the clouds, darker about the borders and a light, buttery cerulean at the center. If they could, clackety-clack, be smooshed together into a single canvas, it’d be like some church ceiling fresco—a majestic, cloud-limned sky to be filled with angels and deities. Peer up close (and you should), and the individual textures and patinas emerge; some are bas relief, almost like ceramics. You realize how, unlike a jigsaw puzzle, Ormolu could be reassembled in an entirely different grid—and the azure illusion would disappear. Each little painting can be individually purchased, though it would be better if a single buyer took the whole lot. It’s a view, in its entirety, you want to see preserved.