Spend some time examining the paintings of Margaretta Gilboy, and you’ll likely find yourself immersed in, and contemplating another visual world, one made up of colliding cultures and mixed messages. These new watercolor paintings by Gilboy are ambiguous, engaging, and emotionally charged. They are narratives taken from popular culture and handled by the artist for her own purposes. I admit to being very moved by them.
Anyone familiar with Margaretta Gilboy’s work will see the connections with her earlier themes. In this case, male and female characters interacting in images borrowed from Chinese movies. Layers of meaning are revealed in the paintings; figures painted loosely, with drips running down like tears. Painted patterns suggesting Chinese fabric designs surround or accent the images. Photo-based close-ups of a woman lost in thought, drinking with or embracing a male companion, imply subtle emotions and what I perceive as the artist’s long-standing interest in historical, mythological, and cultural narratives of men and women. There is the implication of sex and risk. These paintings could only have been made by a woman – not because they are “feminine,” but because they seem to represent a distinctly female, thoughtful perception of male/female interaction.
That the images originate in obscure Chinese films is important as well; they are “separate” from us in Western culture and signify an “other”, forcing us to reach a little further past our familiar references. The images have come to us through many steps: originally a written story, acted by real people and filmed, then converted to digital images on disc, imported to North America, replayed on a television screen, photographed by Gilboy, and then finally painted by her; a series of complex steps which cannot help but alter meanings through time, space, culture, and the artist’s skilled manipulations.
After viewing these works, I am left with questions, and the desire to know more, to find the original sources, enter the culture, at once familiar on a human level, yet “foreign,” and derive meanings from the images.
Make sure you go into the back gallery so as not to miss one of the best, most exciting drawings on display anywhere in this city: Gilboy’s “Persephone and Hades.” In this drawing of two dancing figures, her draftsmanship is top-shelf, evident in a lively line, contrasted with gold diagonal geometric bars; the drawing is as engaging and provocative as any you will see.
Margaretta Gilboy is at the top of her game, both technically and conceptually, creating new works that defy easy analysis and guide the viewer to not only look deeper into the art work, and but also into themselves.
At Goodwin Fine Art, Denver, through November 2.