Critical Reflections: Shelley Horton-Trippe: Carbon

A.D. Collective <br /> 1234 Siler Road, Santa Fe

Date July 31, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts


The paintings in Shelley Horton-Trippe's recent show Carbon are the best of her career. The emotional authority they possess is so direct, damning, and volcanic that the viewer can only step back in amazed silence and let the artist's sense of truth pour down in waves of metaphorical light, sweet crude.

It is as if these mostly black paintings, with their patches and particles of heart-grabbing, ravishing color, were conceived and executed in a series of convulsive, life-and-death struggles. And for all intents and purposes, they were. If in this work Horton-Trippe plays the role of the mythic Cassandra-delivering her apocalyptic visions of political strategies gone awry, greed blazing out of control, equivocation going down our gullets in a daily sacrament of selfishness and cynicism-Cassandra does not back down as she embraces her terribilita , the fierce beauty of her visions wed to their terrible truths.

Blackness too has its subtleties, its luminosity, and Horton-Trippe textures her pitch black, gives it inflections that make her dense atmospheres especially moving and piercing. In contrast to these dark surfaces, the artist has sketched oilrigs, for example, with their tops bursting into flames. The rigs look like a child could have drawn them, but they are perfect in their impact-signifiers that are anything but empty.

It isn't just Horton-Trippe's searing and insightful use of paint, however, that makes these paintings in her "carbon cycle"€ so riveting. It is also the way she has integrated pieces of fabric into the surfaces. In the painting Carbon, there is a collaged piece of material on the left with a pattern of pastel flowers, in the middle is the crumpled cloth of a small bean bag, and on the right, part of a man's sport jacket lining in black silk-all that remains of the lining is an upside-down inner breast pocket with an elegant label embroidered in gold thread that reads, "made to order."€ So many things are implied in this work-the explosion of reason, the death of civilization, the fiery conflagration of the progress of love. The made-to-order war in Iraq, with its legacy of blood, ashes, body parts, and occluded light, is just the beginning of Horton-Trippe's multi-textual themes.

In her video Dictionary, featuring the artist, Horton-Trippe parses the meaning of the word "solipsism"€ as her hand passes a magnifying glass across a dictionary page. The definition of the word is that "the self can be aware of nothing but its own experiences and states."€ After establishing the meaning of solipsism, the artist begins to cry in the video and as it ends, only the neck of the artist is visible in an intense close up. Head thrown back, Horton-Trippe's neck becomes a heaving landscape of throttled emotion and impacted longing. There is nothing wasted, no false step, nothing trite or glib or slick in the transition between the Carbon paintings and the artist's long day's journey into night.