The gorgeous but threatening world of Merion Estes
By David Pagel
May 21, 2015
Some of the most gorgeous frogs on the planet are also the most poisonous. The same goes for Merion Estes’ new paintings at CB1 Gallery.
Titled “Dystopia,” the landscape surveyed in Estes’ seven paintings on paper, fabric and canvas hides its menace beneath supersaturated colors, fanciful patterns and sensuous surfaces. These are sometimes sprinkled with glitter, often adorned with luscious brushstrokes and almost always made up of oddly shaped swatches of fabric.
Rather than stitching such sections together, like a seamstress, Estes has slathered them in buckets of glue and pasted them atop one another — as if patching a hot-air balloon or repairing a torn parachute.
The diversity of the materials she uses matches the complexity of her compositions. Sometimes it seems as if you’re looking at a sunset through a tie-dyed T-shirt. At others, the vista resembles an underwater garden, the flora and fauna adrift in a world where gravity has lost its hold. Still others seem to be hallucinations, the combination of patterns and pictures making a mishmash of scale and coherence as the visible world swims in and out of focus.
Reality and fantasy intermingle, as do abstraction and representation, nature and artifice, attraction and dread. Toxic beauty never looked better, or more threatening.