There’s something delightfully wacky in Nashville, Tenn.-based painter Mary Addison Hackett’s solo exhibition “A Tin of Egyptian Cigarettes” at Midtown’s Marcia Wood Gallery. It’s a novel experience to find both intellectual pleasure in work that so cleverly comments on painting’s history alongside a deliciously off-kilter sensibility in one rewarding show.
Hackett creates adorably tiny paintings, many of them with the dimensions of a dime store paperback.
Hackett finds inspiration in the seemingly mundane or in the hazy recall of memory. There is the goldfish laid to rest in a bright yellow Kodak slide box in the middle of the forest that has the air of a New Yorker magazine cartoon missing its punch line caption. In another of those woodsy vignettes, a man whose face has been mysteriously blurred grooms a horse. In “True Story,” the mythic woodland beast Sasquatch gambols through the wilderness, sporting a daisy face to significantly diminish his threat factor. In “Flowering Quince,” Hackett surrounds that blazing red bush with a ruby aura like a well-lit ’40s movie star.
There’s something enchanted in these strange scenarios, a sense of things far from ordinary, even in the ho-hum march of daily life.
Hackett’s images of nature feel like impromptu Polaroids: off-the-cuff and throwaway but with a lingering oddball vibe that makes you want to look again. Hackett uses wild swaths of paint that give the impression of sun glistening through the trees in her verdant riots of evergreen, chartreuse and AstroTurf-green. Nature sizzles with pulsating color and visual excitement thanks to Hackett’s fat and funky brushstrokes.
Not all is light and happy. In the more somber “First Winter” and “Sad Waters,” an emptied concrete pool combined with a desolate winter landscape suggest a freshly dug grave and plumb the sadness of loss and remembrance.
The artist’s paintings of the nooks and crannies of her domestic life are charming, too, especially when painted in her signature naïf style. In her funny, endearing series of nine 6-by-4-inch pieces in oil on panel, Hackett paints kitchen countertops larded with Cuisinarts, coffeepots and stovetops and the other bit players in the daily soap opera of food prep.
The home front is its own oddly enchanted place, too, in Hackett’s work, filled with little comic moments. In “1968, It Was a Beautiful Cake,” a square frosted cake commanding center stage on a kitchen table proposes to encapsulate a year in a triumphant glaze of buttercream.
The show’s highlight is “Studio Window,” a decidedly humble and utterly transfixing vantage of the view through the artist’s studio window that makes you feel like you are in the artist’s head, or at least in her shoes, contemplating a slice of her reality. That large picture window has become a kind of bulletin board, with reminders and inspirational quotes (“shut up and paint”) tacked with blue painter’s tape to the glass like the artist’s consciousness spewed out in literal form. It’s an incredibly appealing, ropes-you-in paean to the chaos of creativity.
In this and other paintings, Hackett charts the contours of a life, the many moments and milestones seemingly too small to bother with much attention, but which Hackett takes the trouble to commemorate in oil and acrylic.
This is an artist navel-gazing on the constituent parts of a life, from the kitchen appliances to the mismatched bed linens. Nothing grand here, people, just life with all of its relatable oddball turns and charming quotidian realities.
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