A short video about my work and being a studio member at the EFA studios in NY.
Fraleigh earned her MFA from Yale University and her BFA from Boston University. She has exhibited widely at numerous venues including P.P.O.W Gallery and Massimo Audiello Gallery, New York, NY, Mark Moore Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, Rachael Cozad Fine Art, Kansas City, MO, James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA, Inman Gallery Houston, TX, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, TX. Fraleigh has been nominated for the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, the Louis Comfort Tiffany grant, was awarded the Yale University Alice Kimball English Travel Grant as well as several international artist-in-residence programs, including the CORE program, MFAH, TX, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, NE and Frans Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium. She is represented by Inman Gallery in Houston, TX and currently lives and works in New York, NY and Allentown, PA with her husband, artist Wes Heiss and their daughter Tuesday.
October 25th-January 4th 2015
The myths underpinning Angela Fraleigh’s most recent paintings are rooted in desire, but as basic as that impulse may be, it isn’t simple. Desire is a component of admiration and love as well as covetousness and overindulgence. Fraleigh’s sources – tales from antiquity of pursuit and abduction – illustrate the charged complexity of wanting: wanting something beautiful, wanting to be ravished, wanting to ravish. Europa was at first charmed, then terrified, by the bull (Zeus in disguise) that carried her off. One glimpse of Diana bathing earned Actaeon a brutal death, delivered by his own dogs. Violence and hunting play natural counterparts to lust and seduction, as in the allegorical boar hunt that frames Meleager’s courting of Atalanta.
The fraught sensuality of these stories has been compounded, over the years, by their representation. The women in Fraleigh’s paintings are originally from paintings by Baroque and Rococo masters such as Jacob Jordaens, Francois Boucher and Francois Lemoyne. These were artists whose great themes were pleasure, beauty and abundance; hints of refusal, fear or coercion would only spoil the party. So in Boucher’s The Rape of Europa, Europa is serene and acquiescent perched atop her abductor. Elsewhere, we the viewers sit in for Actaeon, free to enjoy the sight of a naked Diana without fear of reprisal. The original myths, licentious as they may have been, are here replaced with myths even more unlikely and, in their way, more domineering: affirmations of total compliance and availability, of fulfilled desires and uncontested supremacy.
Fraleigh’s work lifts these women (and they are almost exclusively women) out of their assigned roles and resettles them in less limited surroundings. One-time attendants, bathers or symbols of fertility now inhabit abstract fields of color. Swaths of oil paint and screens of gold leaf obscure their bodies. Free of context, of narrative constraints, of salacious bulls and leering satyrs, they are less iconic and more human. Their glances and gestures take on a confidential manner no longer accessible to the viewer. Their desires turn inward. But even stripped of history painting’s theatrical and symbolic conventions, Fraleigh’s canvases retain their monumental scale and physicality. Voluptuous bodies give way to voluptuous paint. The violence of the old myths is sublimated into whirls of layered and saturated color. If Fraleigh is building a utopia for these women, it’s Amazonian, not pastoral, full of a vigor and potential that keeps their newfound intimacy grand.
Is it possible to restore autonomy to these models, to whatever nuances of expression might’ve been contained in their poses? Maybe it can’t be “restored” – they’re long gone – but it can be conceived afresh. Fraleigh’s paintings are reinventions more than corrections, assertions that those myths of control are in fact just myths, and that new truths can be found by pushing the images further into fantasy, not back toward their origins. Fraleigh takes the title of her exhibition from a short essay by Truman Capote describing his eerie feeling of doubled reality as he watched In Cold Blood being filmed. A movie based on his book based on a real-life murder should’ve sapped the story of its authenticity, but that isn’t what Capote experienced: “Reflected reality is the essence of reality, the truer truth… I had chosen my details from life, while [the director] had distilled his from my book: reality twice transposed, and all the truer for it.” Fraleigh’s painting is itself an act of distillation, boiling off the extravagance and iconography of her sources in pursuit of more delicate, less definite, but perhaps truer relationships.