Margaret Evangeline’s abstract paintings emanate a cool and composed, yet somber elegance, making for an impressive exhibition at Weinberger Fine Art.
Photography cannot do justice to Evangeline’s paintings. The subdued grey paint she often employs contains flakes of reflective “crystallina” that catch the light, causing a glinting as you move around them. The buildup of many layers of white and grey toned-colors creates a visual depth reminiscent of looking into a pond. Two motifs recur throughout: the concentric pattern of a camellia flower and crisscrossing line work suggesting ripples or waves on the surface of water.
Water is a central theme for this veteran New York-based artist and Art OMI fellow. A native of Louisiana, she has experienced floods and for some time had a studio in a bargeboard cottage, a kind of house built from old river barges. Since those early days as a young artist, Evangeline has always sought out studios and exhibition spaces near rivers, like her current studio near the Hudson in New York City or the floating sculptures she made for the Thames in London.
The title of her exhibition, “In Beauty there is Guilt,” sets up a tension. To offer a class-oriented interpretation: Beauty is largely a privilege of the wealthy, who having excess free time can devote themselves to art, fashion, exercise or the appreciation of nature, among many other forms of leisure. Given enough indulgence in beauty, it is easy to develop a sense of guilt: ‘what makes me deserving of so much pleasure while others suffer?’
But there is also a sense of divine beauty and divine guilt implicit in Evangeline’s work. A guilt that the world is so amazing, so beautiful, while we ourselves (and our art) are fleeting, imperfect and undeserving of the world. It is the sensation of looking at a beautiful river, and realizing that the river is perfect and you can do nothing to improve it, that anything you do is just likely to mess it up.
That is why, for all the beauty that is found in Evangeline’s paintings, there is also immense sadness in the muted grey tones. It is like seeing a rainstorm and being unable to appreciate its beauty, because all you can think of his how your picnic has been ruined. “In Beauty there is Guilt” is Evangeline’s response to this eternal artistic dilemma: even if human art is imperfect, we would feel even more guilty and undeserving if we never attempted to pay homage to the divine beauty of the world.
In conjunction with Evangeline’s “In Beauty there is Guilt,” Weinberger is also showing a selection of Kansas City artist Bret Reif’s iconic and bulbous ceramic-tile sculptures.
“Margaret Evangeline: In Beauty There is Guilt” continues at Weinberger Fine Art, 114 Southwest Blvd., through Oct. 29. The gallery is also displaying ceramics by Bret Reif. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, 816.301.4428 or www.weinbergerfineart.com