Peregrine Honig, “When the Bow Breaks” (photo by E.G. Schempf)
The lights are dimmed, murmuring dies down, and the players take their places on center stage. One might think a performance is imminent; instead, this is the stage for Peregrine Honig’s solo exhibition “Player” at Studios Inc.
“Player” features seven paintings from Honig’s two-year Studios Inc residency, and she made the paintings in response to some works she created earlier in her career. “I wanted to build them up like a casting call, audition, or understudy in a play,” she said. “They seem like fairytales.” And fairytales they do indeed conjure in the viewer’s mind. Stories play out through forward-facing individuals craving eye contact, suggestions of bodily forms such as a uterus or femur and the dozens of stray eyes peeking out from corners and crevices in the compositions.
Mythology, theology, and fairy tales are integral to Honig’s series. Some of the figures appear animal-like, sporting furry ears, antlers, or horns. Other figures look deeply into the viewer’s soul. About the relationship between the paintings and the viewers, Honig said, “I want people to feel seen. I want viewers to feel like the paintings are looking at them.” She compares this aspect of “being seen” with the opinion that in the U.S. healthcare system, many people are neglected.
As for a home for where Honig envisions her seven paintings, she indicated that she would like to see them end up in a waiting room. Typically, waiting rooms feature bland, mediocre works of art, which is problematic because in these spaces, people are waiting for news, sometimes waiting to find out if they’re dying. Honig wants her works to exist in more diverse spaces than museums and galleries, because they can reach people in those heavy and sometimes tragic moments.
At an artist’s talk at Studio’s Inc, Honig said, “I would love for them to be in a hospital, or a factory in Detroit, or where people are battling sobriety — places where people are going through it. Where (the works) won’t go into storage. Where it’s unexpected. Where people are figuring out how to uplift themselves.” In fact, the paintings are each hung at an approximate 15-degree angle, leaning toward the viewers as if they are television screens in waiting rooms.
The beautiful thing about Honig’s works in this series is that they are incredibly layered—conceptually, materially, temporally—and those layers produce an incredible richness. Such titles as “Mother Hood,” “Custody,” and “Memento” allow viewers to feel a sense of connection to the works, but they also broaden the paintings conceptually and allow for the subjects to transport viewers into different worlds, time periods, and liminal spaces. Honig said that the paintings and the characters within them will mean something different to her in an hour, two weeks, ten years, as they are constantly evolving.
Honig shared her gratitude for the Studios Inc residency program, saying, “it allows you time and space to take risks. I have had so much help in this process, fiscally, technically, and in other ways.” Honig’s exhibition is a must-see, especially for those who want to embark on an excursion into layers of theater, mythology, and conversation.
“Player” continues at the Studio’s Inc Exhibit Hall, 1708 Campbell St., through December 23. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on First Fridays. For more information, 816.994.7134 or www.studiosinc.org.