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Kelley Devine
Esperson Gallery, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant


Kelley Devine, "Mirabella Memento en Color," charcoal, pastels on canvas with pages from How We Die by Sherwin B. Nuland

Continuing through December 12, 2015

Kelley Devine paints what she knows, so she often paints herself or people familiar to her. Most of the 28 pieces in the show are close-ups of faces using acrylic on canvas or charcoal over a ground created by affixing book pages to the surface. The pages are taken from a wide variety of texts, including “Guns, Germs and Steel,” “Love and Survival” and “The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor.” The words give the images an extra dimension, as though the subject’s inner thoughts are visible. In most cases, the figure looks directly at us somewhat impassively, though “Yell,” “Scream” and “Side Glance” are quite animated. Poems or quotes by figures as diverse as Hunter S. Thompson, Mother Theresa and Pablo Neruda address a wide range of subjects — art, love, money, peace. “You cannot find peace by avoiding life” from Virginia Woolf accompanies “Moments in Blue.” “An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision,” from James McNeil Whistler, is matched with “Mirabella in Pink.”

Devine’s work reflects what she is reading or dealing with at the moment. The faces are rendered realistically, and the eyes convey a range of emotions — anger, doubt, vulnerability, fear. Because the faces fill the picture plane, Devine spends little time on the background. Using loose, gestural brushstrokes, she frames them with painterly swaths of color, sometimes allowing the paint to drip. The line and brushwork reflect the artist’s interest in Japanese calligraphy. A gaunt figure of indeterminate gender is portrayed in “Through These Eyes,” the title drawn from a documentary about the Holocaust. But it does not so much address historical tragedy as how Devine sees the world, and how she imagines the world sees her.


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