Looking For a Simpler Life: Beth Edwards

Looking For a Simpler Life

Log Cabin II, 22” X 30” 2002 (left) 

Happy Objects from Beth Edward's collection (right)

In my paintings, I wish to depict human situations without being obligated to the logic and restrictions of the human form. I use vintage dolls as stand-ins for people. These figurines and dolls function as characters performing roles, similar to actors in a movie. In this body of work, which I refer to as the “Happy Paintings”, the subjects inhabit settings and respond to their environment with obvious glee. The characters find visible enjoyment in their ideal surroundings.

When I paint with watercolor, I surrender to it as a medium. I have limited control over much of what happens and this is in marked contrast with how I work as an oil painter. I am always struck by how it makes me a different artist. It is a nice departure.

Watercolors by Beth Edwards that will be featured in the exhibition:

Little Boy, 2013
Yellow Mouse, 2013
Doll Head IV, 2005
Doll Head V, 2005
Dog I, 2013
Free and Easy, 2010
Log Cabin II, 2002
Summer, 2008
Girl with Fish, 2005
Happy Mouse in Garden, 2008

Jason Miller
Statement About the Exhibition

This fifth installment of Circuitous Succession is an exhibition featuring objects belonging to and watercolors by Beth Edwards. Edwards is a widely celebrated and prominently featured Memphis artist. She is represented by David Lusk Gallery, featured three times on the cover of New American Painting and once on the cover of Memphis Magazine, was the artist chosen to paint the poster design for this year's Memphis In May month-long celebration, is a Professor of Painting at The University of Memphis, and the list of her achievements continues. 

Captivated by the ability demonstrated in Beth's skill in the medium of oil and watercolor painting, Jason Miller carefully selected works with a unifying idea in mind. Beth has the mastery that reveals traces of a wide range of styles and influences that have led to include her own pioneering techniques. Furthermore, she has a wealth of knowledge regarding the history of painting and the arts in general. As with any artist that comes into his or her own voice, Edwards has fiercely grasp a defining direction through her work.

In addition, to watercolor paintings, objects will be on view. The objects selected by Miller for this exhibition are and have been the subject of many of Edward's oil paintings. Her oil paintings are not the paintings featured in this exhibition, but rather selections from her the watercolors. The watercolor paintings selected for this exhibition draw Miller to thoughts of a simple surface level that conceals a far more complex subject matter. For example, a toy log cabin graced by exquisite brush strokes so artfully done that their functioning is seamlessly intergraded, transcends its source inspiration to become a dwelling inhabiting a dream-born longing that is lost in pursuit of childhood. Frail expressions on figurine-like faces hint towards emotions that are humanly undeniable, although seemingly unattainable. In this time of advancing technology, it seems empirical to take a step of reversal back towards a simpler way of living and communicating with each other. 

There is an experienced force, a maturity that fills empty forms within nearly all of Beth’s paintings. Miller noted the philosophical relation of squeaker toys that change in pitch depending on air intake and outtake, which reminds Miller of the human act of breathing–it is this filling and depleting of an empty cavity such as one's lungs that links Miller's thoughts relating Edward's paintings to the objects she collects.

This exhibition is set to the audio of an unnamed soundtrack of dialogue that works as a third element weaving the objects and watercolors together within a singular space in a new way. The words found in the dialogue will speak with a computer interpreter’s accent, while simultaneously uttering phrases that call upon the importance of the natural world, uninhibited by humankind. Human beings may take only what is needed to survive and nothing more, as the indigenous people that once knew how to live in harmony with nature. The artificiality that many of our lives sometimes entertain, through the intervention of the construct in which we exist, is found symbolized through the translation into paint. Toys and other objects, both modeled and imagined, are animated into living entities through the inventiveness of Beth Edward’s idiosyncratic form of painting.

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