Mary Chiaramonte‘s show, “Land of Strangers,” is currently on display at Eric Schindler Gallery, and it’s a beguiling assemblage of people revealing their secret hearts–some diffidently, some exuberantly. There’s a lot of push and pull on display, from lovers who are distant to strangers sharing whispers, and that comes through in the painting, too. Chiaramonte paints in acrylic on birch panels, and her brush sets warm into conflict with cool in many scenes, as with the blue undertones peeking through the warm skin of High Tide and Forever Lull.
Childhood survives adulthood in many of the pieces on display, with adults holding on to such fragments of their past as the well-loved stuffed animal of Forever Lull, or the balloons of The Things That Don’t Come True. Some of these things are tangible, but some are more ethereal. The card for the show features The Nameless, a woman delicately holding a house afire in her arms, the wind blowing her hair across her face. Nothing here suggests she’s harmed by the heat, but how do you hold a burning thing without being scarred?
Many of the female subjects of these paintings recline on beds or floors, exploring inner landscapes that sometimes manifest as solitary objects: a fish, a bone. Those who don’t recline are often set in some numinous landscape. The woman of Take Care is seated in a field, a storm threatening even as she waits for it in a formal dress, her face half-shaded by an umbrella.
Valley Haggard has written about the narrative aspect of these paintings, and about their dreamlike quality. Wholeheartedly agreed. The subject of Dirt, Baby has been playing in the dirt, with mud up her calves, and she’s looking toward a numinous, lit space that invites the viewer to wonder what has happened, or is about to happen. And what about the woman of The Sleepwalking? Whether she’s going through the ritual of life, reliving dress-up games from childhood, or actually walking about as she dreams, there’s no question that something’s going on, just out of sight.
“Land of Strangers” ends next Saturday, March 10th, so make your way over to Eric Schindler Gallery on Church Hill and take a look. 2305 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23223. Call 644-5005 or visit www.ericschindlergallery.com for gallery hours.