the great season

13FOREST Gallery, 2015

On Friday, January 24, 13FOREST Gallery opened The Great Season, an exhibition of new and recent acrylic work by painter Nicole Duennebier. Dark and sumptuous, The Great Season highlights a fantastical six-panel painting that associates the random beauty of nature with an elaborate 19th-century parlor game. 

Set against black backgrounds, Duennebier’s complex forms strongly refer to Baroque still-life paintings in which fruits and vegetables simultaneously emerge and pass into different stages of maturity. A key difference in Duennebier’s work is that, rather than render images of everyday objects, she bases them on her fascination with biology, particularly bacteria, fungi and other objects hidden from view. Referring to her use of darkness, the artist states that her inky backgrounds are “like a primordial soup, a pool of black that springs forth a decadent and sometimes horrible growth.” 

Each of the paintings in the show is associated with lush proliferation. InBright Beast After Nature, for instance, a black background gives rise to a nebula of unfolding, biomorphic forms that seem to divide and overtake one another. Painted in thin, translucent layers, the work suggests a still life captured in only one of many stages it will eventually pass through. With Bright Beast Dissected View Duennebier gives an equally fantastic image of the engine behind such proliferation. Similar to vivisections seen in science textbooks, the painting shows the surface of a soft, woolly plant and the interior, biological source of its existence. In content the “engine” plays with the idea of a still life, but one made of flowers, vegetables and animal viscera. 

Duennebier’s centerpiece in The Great Season is a vast, six-panel painting titled, Hydnellum Myriorama. Its title refers to a type of fungus found in nature and to a Victorian card game – myriorama – in which children could arrange a series of illustrated cards to form hundreds of different landscapes. In Duennebier’s six panels are hybrid images that resemble Baroque still lifes, coral, fur, crystals and close-ups of microscopic fauna. Each of the forms emerges from nothing and stands bathed in a common light source. Despite the panels’ differing environments, Duennebier negates their importance by enabling viewers to arrange the panels into aesthetic experiences of their own choice. With Hydenellum Myriorama, the random potential of generation and decline in nature is given its parallel in art. 

Duennebier's interview with 13FOREST owner, Jim Kiely, on the gallery blog, Into the Light: An Interview with Nicole Duennebier.