By Romas Astrauskas
Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects
July 5 - 29, 2012
Freezing in time the fleeting beauty of life, and in particular the brevity and transience of youth, has long been a concern of visual art. It’s a natural fit, understandable, bordering on the obvious, that a medium like painting be used in such a way. The ability of painting and drawing to freeze a moment in time gives it the enviable power of making immortal (and timeless) the imagery it conveys. That which is portrayed in a picture stays immutable and constant while the rest of us poor souls submit to the humbling humilities brought about by the merciless elements of time, aging and gravity.
The work of Shauna Born, who up to now has focused principally on youthful portraiture, is no exception to this described desire to make the world stop spinning. Her painted portraits of pretty young things ooze with a lightness of being. Ethereal and decadent, they often appear to be contemplating nothing more than their own fleeting existence, which in turn reminds the viewer of theirs. A momento mori minus the skulls-and-spook-show imagery.
The artist’s latest show, Galore, is in no way a deviation from the themes that seem to compel and inspire her output. For this exhibition, Born has put down her paintbrushes and taken to drawing on paper with a ballpoint pen. From an ongoing series titled "All the Boys I‘d Like to Fuck", the exhibition displayed a couple dozen or so selections of exquisitely rendered and modestly scaled portraits of painfully beautiful young men all seemingly in their late-teens or early twenties. The rendering skills and the delicacy of touch are breathtaking, and their 8 x 8-inch size coupled with the decision to display them unframed gives them a rewarding and seductive sense of intimacy. The imagery itself, culled from fashion and Hollywood type magazines allude to notions of beauty worship and its inevitable subjugation to media manipulation. In fact, many of the portraits are composites; a perfect chin here, impossibly high cheekbones there, all creating an almost Frankenstein-like construction of sublime pulchritude.
It would be easy to dismiss the whole enterprise as yet another submission to the cult of beauty, specifically as it relates to its perpetuation by contemporary media, but it is the non-ironic sincerity and earnest aspiration that seems to naturally emanate from these works that sets them apart as something worth experiencing.