Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Saturday in the City – Nicole McCormick Santiago at First Street Gallery

Nicole McCormick Santiago, Susan with Toys and Lollipops, oil on canvas, 24x38
Reminiscent of Wayne Thiebault’s bakery shop paintings, McCormick Santiago is painting pastry as still life.  There are bold pops of pinks, reds, and deliciously painted patterns, all immaculately rendered.  Interestingly enough the artist participates in some of her compositions mixing still life with self portraiture.  The artist paints herself with equal amounts of enthusiasm and articulation as paper plates, party cups, and cupcakes.  

McCormick Santiago’s careful calibration of whimsical color is exciting and expressive.  Her use of white color is outstanding.  There were easily a dozen shades of white in each piece but most spectacularly in Susan with Toys and Lollipops, oil on canvas, 24 x 38 inches.  The use of color as light and shape carried by the sensitivity of the brush strokes is pure brilliance.  Her still life paintings integrate seamlessly from the pastry shop to the nursery.  They share a similar palette, perfect drawing, and an engaging use of light, space, and unusual perspective.  Painting chops aside, McCormick’s innate sense of composition makes for irresistible paintings.  

Nicole McCormick Santiago, Cakes, Cupcakes, Lollipops,oil on canvas, 8x6

If it was the color and the composition of shapes that attract the viewer to the larger scaled works, the small scaled works have tripled the impact.  The fresh, immediate, and “quick” appearance of the small paintings would make any painter drool.  Gone is the careful glazing of layer after layer of meticulously applied paint and what is left is deft strokes of pure color capturing form and light all at once!  The painting is magical!  The dash, dot, dot, of a brush loaded with burnt clementine pigment transforms the end of a limb into a curled foot.  This is the kind of “blink and you miss it” mark making that is more like dancing with paint.  This is pure skill that comes from thousands of hours spent in the studio, honing your craft, taking risks, and painting for painting’s sake.  

The content of the paintings is also something worth spending time with.  McCormick Santiago’s paintings are about experiencing life, focusing on the positive, and taking the time to pause and see what is in front of her.  The saying goes: you eat with your eyes before your mouth.  This is possibly most true with desserts than other food group.  The special beauty of decorated cakes and pastries is homage to this truth.  McCormick Santiago is not only taking the time to “eat” with her eyes, the cake, but also objects that surround and make up the pieces of her life.  Cakes, forks and knives, a pretty table cloth, baby toys, tubes of paint, and herself and her child as “objects” participate in McCormick Santiago’s personal “meal.”  The tabletop is a representation of life and the still life paintings are the result of the artist “eating with her eyes” before she digs in and lives her life.  The paintings are a visual representation of a reminder to find enjoyment in every bit of it along the way.  
It is an especially loaded message from an artist, who also happens to be a woman, having her cake … and eating it, too.

This optimistic and deliciously painted show is up until June 15.  Check it out!

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