Bright beast

Lilypad Gallery, 2013


Nicole Duennebier’s gorgeous and creepy paintings at the Lilypad attract and repel. She calls her show “Bright Beast,” an apt description for the fanciful, burgeoning organic forms she depicts. In a painting such as “Scintillating Red Organism,” she pulls you in with hundreds of strands of delectable tiny spheres, tangling and cascading, glistening like the grapes in a Dutch still life.

Many Dutch still life paintings addressed imminent death and decay, and that’s in the mix here, too. Ghostly silver folds make a woozy nest for the organism; the surrounding light is murky. Amid all the care for detail, veils of pigment drift, suggesting the beads exude a stench, and shadows of drips hint that they’re giving way to rot.

Duennebier goes straight for the stomach-churning in “Andrew’s Dermoid Cyst,” a lusciously painted mass of white fur, quivering red fibers, pink berries, and — ick — rows of teeth. This painter’s combination of pearlescent sheen and lurking horror recalls a similar approach in Anne Harris’s sweetly ghoulish portraits. In both cases, technical mastery gives the artist what she needs to seduce the viewer; the content lowers the boom.

Cate Mcquaid, Boston Globe, JUNE 11, 2013