Daisy Patton: A Rewilded Arcadia & Daisy Patton: This Is Not Goodbye

K Contemporary, Denver
Daisy Patton: A Rewilded Arcadia
October 6—27, 2018

CU Art Museum, Boulder
Daisy Patton: This Is Not Goodbye
July 19—November 17, 2018

At its most basic, Daisy Patton’s work revolves around selecting old family photos from random sources, enlarging them several times over, and essentially defacing them with boldly colored swaths of paint. The resulting panels, some stretching up to 8 or 10 feet, are mesmerizing insofar as they elicit imagined narratives. Of course, there is much more substance to the work, given that Patton grounds herself in at least a couple of esoteric theories. One concerns the photograph as the “death of a moment” as described by philosopher Roland Barthes (1915-1980). By drastically altering photographs, Patton lets the depicted moments linger and take on new meaning, and in the process, evoke individualized memories in each viewer. A second influential theory for Patton comes from anthropologist Michael Taussig (born 1940), who describes defacing cultural relics such as family photographs can force a “shock into being.” The objects are revivified, even if there are no family members left to cherish them. As Patton writes in the online art and poetry platform Dialogist, “I paint to disrupt, to reimagine, to re-enliven these individuals until I can either no longer recognize them or their presence is too piercing to continue.”

Patton’s assimilation of these concepts was spectacularly on display in overlapping exhibitions this past fall in Boulder and Denver. This Is Not Goodbye was based on funerary photos as popularized before the turn of the 20th century, in which families kept memories of a funeral by photographing the deceased in his or her casket, amid floral arrangements, crosses, sentimental objects and other trappings. A Rewilded Arcadia re-appropriated photos spanning several decades, concentrating on couples and individuals ostensibly depicted in happier times. The paintings are intended to spur multiple interpretations regarding the context of the poses. Together, the two shows demonstrated Patton’s undeniably excellent eye in selecting abandoned photos from the thousands she pores through from sources such as eBay and thrift stores. The shows also gave evidence of the artist’s transformative restraint, as the photos retain their haunting quality amid the profusion of garish color fields, the application of patterns of various types, and rudimentary labels inscribed in the artist’s handwriting. Especially prominent are botanical designs and vines referencing Victorian wallpapers and fabrics that wind through the compositions, hinting at connections among the subjects. In “A Rewilded Arcadia,” the floral embellishments also serve to suggest an eventual return to nature, or perhaps decomposition.



Two works with particular poignancy and narrative punch, one from each show, shed light on how the artist fuses anonymous black-and-white photos with the complex layering that has become her signature painting style. One of the standouts from CU is “Untitled (‘For Darling,’ The Bride),” in which the photo is of a presumably young bride. She lies swathed in gray inside a casket Patton has turned pink. Vines reach every corner of the painting, overlaying the enlarged photo and various areas of color in which Patton experiments with textures and dotted patterns. There’s an unexpected harmony to the elements that suggests the naturalness of death. From K Contemporary, “Untitled (Leonar 5746)” presents five women, presumably friends, in a garden-side pose. Patton applies vibrant hues to the women’s coats, shoes and faces, while encircling them with vines and connecting them to the garden. The relaxed poses don’t entirely sync with the intense eye contact the women make with the camera, eliciting thoughts as to the real nature of their relationships.

When the possible negative connotations of defacing a family photo are out of the equation, Patton’s works reflect earnest, even tender, acts of resurrection. Not only are the deceased paid tribute, but memories are reactivated, relationships are glimpsed, and a lasting humanity remains at each painting’s core.

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