Reconsiderations: Through Painting, Mary Addison Hackett Rediscovers the True Language of Things
by Megan Kelley
Mary Addison Hackett’s studio threshold is more than just a doorway: I find myself entering into the mind and work of a treasured collection of items, perspectives, and moments, all reimagined in new ways and captured in the act of letting go.
Though the brushstrokes I meet are dynamic, gestural, and fast, it is an intentional experience for both audience and artist. “I spend a lot of time digesting the idea of something before approaching the canvas,” Mary Addison says. Working quickly after being so thoroughly engaged gives her a way to impart the idea of an object without overloading it with the emotional weight of sentiment or the representational burden of overworked paint. “I set rules for myself in painting,” Mary Addison explains. Though her recent series of work draws from familial objects and personal moments, it’s important to Hackett that she shed her own sentiment from the memory, preferring to return the object into something that belonged to itself.
“It’s not the substantiality of an object,” she explains, describing unpacking her family’s estate and being drawn to using the studio as a way of processing these items and histories, “but just what’s there. I wanted openness. I knew too much and I wanted discovery. There’s art inside of that object that takes up space in our lives.”
It’s a perspective that lends her canvases an appreciation for the vignette: the concept of things or moments treasured in everyday ways but often overlooked in the landscape of the home: the fold of a pillow, the evidence of color left behind on a studio palette, a tangle of leaves over a woodgrain floor. In scenes such as Butterfly Chair and Birdcage and The Layperson’s Guide to Venn Diagram, their imperfect representation lends a human comfort. Furniture pieces lean against each other as if seeking support, and details surface and recede as if glanced over by the viewer’s eye. It’s a form of working from photos and still life that Mary Addison describes as “perceptual painting” rather than working from simple observation. Instead of capturing exact details and allegorical significance, she’s more interested in “wandering and finding: the place between the object and the canvas, that feeling of knowing a thing through the act of depicting it.” It’s an archaeological process of viewing objects within their found context—most commonly inside the home she grew up in—but digging past the expectations for a thing in order to find its true self.
These acts of rediscovery also edge into psychological territories, reconfiguring seemingly unrelated details into mental still lifes composed of these collected moments of notice. With rococo riots of color and curve, paintings such as The Meeting (Attachments) and Blind Man’s Bluff begin to evolve the simple sensation of memory into the complex desire to have events, objects, and experiences make sense within a larger context. “I choose something less due to its history and instead focus on [finding] its connection to other objects and their places and opening that to others.” Small material decisions form moments of visual excitement—letting the artist celebrate a bouquet of flowers through heavy paint or to suggest compliant blindness through a single sweep of white across the eyes—and there’s an obvious delight in the process of deconstruction and reappropriation. Ultimately, these disparate moments are remnants—the ghosts of meaning, detached from their objects and left behind during the act of being processed—whose purpose, through the act of being reconsidered, is woven into something larger and new.
Mary Addison Hackett’s work will be on display for a solo exhibition with David Lusk Gallery in October, but if you can’t wait, experience her painting Blind Man’s Bluff as part of David Lusk Gallery’s grand opening group show on March 1, between 6 and 9 p.m., at their new location in Nashville at 516 Hagan Street. For more information, visit www.davidluskgallery.com.