HUNTINGTON.- The Huntington Museum of Art presents the exhibit Curator´s Choice: Paula Clendenin Still Lifes and Vanities until July 23, 2006. Charleston-based artist Paula Clendenin uses recurring symbols in her paintings and prints, such as images of moons, crosses, and mountains. These flat, frontal pictograms take up a large portion of the composition. Often boldly outlined, they are juxtaposed against large areas of flat color, creating movement, and depth by contrasting warm and cool colors. The shapes and symbols of Clendenin's personal visual lexicon evoke both the natural and the spiritual world.
A few years ago, Clendenin, who holds an MFA from WVU and is a full Professor at West Virginia State College, began focusing on still life painting. This series was full of optimism, hope for the future, and confidence. Then she broke her arm - in five places - and ultimately had to have the arm re-broken in order for it to heal correctly. For at least a year-and-a-half, Clendenin dealt with the frustrations of mending and the struggle to continue to create. Hence, her approach to still life painting has changed course, and her symbols from the past have become organically joined to images of hands, and have become less obtrusive under soft layers of pigment. These new works reflect a more cautious approach - still hopeful, but with an understanding that not everything is in one's personal control - not in "one's own hands." The element of time, the effects of aging, and exposure to the elements on various surfaces plays a big role in her recent paintings. As in 16th and 17th century Flemish Still Life paintings, which develop the idea of "vanitas" - revealing the impermanence of life by showing both beauty and decay - Clendenin's works explore the impermanence of life, the feeling of vulnerability. At the same time they explore surface play, introduce the use of new and fresh materials, and additive elements to the canvas, and a lighter palette.