Sophie Wahlquist’s first solo show at Baert Gallery “Lace of Love and Bones,” manages to weave a narrative within the canvases of each painting and collage. Her works encompass various stories about her family and personal life. The paintings, collages, and sculptures are subjective in her approach to the theme and focus of these works. The paint and the canvas are used as a device to recreate scenes and memories from her life. From the paint and composition emerge an image of familiarity both in the figurative and abstracted sense.
Wahlquist’s exhibition is divided into three different types of work. There is painting, collage, and ceramic sculpture. Within the paintings, Wahlquist straddles the line between abstraction and figuration. The freedom to shift from the image to the abstract and back allows for Wahlquist the flexibility to control the viewer. In two paintings both ‘Untitled” 2021, Wahlquist does not allow the viewer to get away with merely a glance. The composition appears abstract at first. As one looks closer and adjusts the eyes within the canvas, faces and bodies begin to appear. In one, a victory celebration at a baseball game. In the other, a family portrait with children. In these works, Wahlquist is deliberate in the revelation. The more one looks, the more one discovers the paintings’ mysteries.
Wahlquist’s other paintings are clearer in their representation. She chooses her 100-year-old grandmother as a muse for her art. In the painting “Fruit of Fruits” 2021, the work depicts her grandmother in a hospital bed. There is both an immediacy and intimacy that is conveyed. The strength of her character and personality is reflected within the work. In a hand gesture there is defiance and rebellion. Wahlquist is making a link that transcends both time and place. In another painting, “M.A.”, 2021, the artist depicts a photograph of her grandmother and family members. There are two fingers as if the artist is attempting to make a connection with both the past and future. In other paintings, Wahlquist paints portraits of her child in “My Child” 2021 that reflects a tender moment a mother would reminisce. It is moments and memory that Wahlquist seeks to explore.
In her collage work, Wahlquist uses color and form as well to create scenes and events. Within each work, there is a sense of a third dimension where the works become sculptural in their presentation. In “Sweetmeats” 2021 the artist forms a dance party where couples and objects emerge from the material that this work is composed of. In another collaged work, “Captive Entertainment” 2021, Wahlquist depicts an equestrian event. Like the Futurists of a century ago, Wahlquist is able to capture movement as the horses and their riders gallop within the work. To Wahlquist, these works are shared visions of her personal and family life both past and present.
The ceramic works are separate yet compliment the other works in the exhibition. Each named “Path to Paradise” are stacked with broken ceramic cups, bowls, and other pottery. Totemic in nature, these sculptures act as guardians to something larger. Wahlquist is creating a space where structure, form and composition emerge from the refuse of the broken. If one wants to make any connection, the built fragments and broken terra cotta, one on top of the other, is comparable to the remembrances that person reflects upon. Each ceramic piece creates a conversation with each painting and collage as if they are an analogy to how we as people remember and construct memories.
The work of Sophie Wahlquist is more than just a walk down memory lane. Her work builds and reflects the feelings and experiences of the past, present and in some respects the future. “Lace of Love and Bones” is a visual delight. Wahlquist’s art is about deliberation and thought. The eyes move within each work while finding something that the artist seeks to convey. Memory and connectedness make the paintings and sculptures relatable to the viewer. When looking, it is important to take the time to see. Seeing is what Wahlquist wants, and we are willing to accommodate.