Sarah Slappey's Power Play @ Sargent's Daughters
Let's go out on a limb here and surmise feminine sensibility reaches a climax in the work of NYC-based painter Sarah Slappey, who deconstructs societal stereotypes but equally delights in myriad mysteries of the body. Rendered in oil, pale skin tones regularly liquesce into shades of yellow, purple and blue, her creations evoking elegance and a kind of extraterrestrial beauty. Elegant fingers frolic around breasts and buttocks in elegant harmony, casting seductive shades over curvaceous figures and reflecting an alluring light on satiny surfaces. A tampon string dangles and milk oozes, accepting and exulting in earthly matters.
I recently had the chance to visit Sarah Slappey's Brooklyn studio and receive an exclusive peek at her latest work, which is revealed tonight at Sargent’s Daughters in NYC. From what I've seen in her creative hideout, Power Play might well be a milestone presentation for the South Carolina-born artist. Slappey's new paintings are both seductive and grotesque in the way they chaff at cliché and celebrate feminine beauty, such as her harsh contrast of vibrant red lipstick (or in this case, an oil slick) against velvety body surfaces dominating the canvas. "Actually, lipstick is gross," Slappey concedes as she describes marking her delicate figures, which tweak the traditional representation of women in Western art history. Squeezed, folded, pushed, and melded, a string of pearls, tube of lipstick, drops of breast milk, and dangling tampon strings exploring the territory between the supported and acceptable and the forbidden and unacceptable.
Along with new works on canvas, which, by virtue of placing polished imagery atop a rough and muted background create depth, Slappey presents a series of work on paper. More muted, and therefore, imbued with a dreamy atmosphere, these images focused particular details, such as smoking a cigarette, licking a finger, or similar scenes, tantalize with sphinx-like subtlety. By concentrating on such womanly tropes and creating pulsating clusters of archetypal visuals, Slappey challenges convention and unshackles beauty.
Photos and text by Sasha Bogojev