Piece of Work

In her painting Katherine, Katy O'Connor portrays the subject's relationship to her purse such a way as to suggest multiple possibilities, questions left unanswered, which makes the work unusually intriguing.

Piece of Work


Oil on canvas by Katy O'Connor

"Robert Jessup + Katy O'Connor," at D. Berman Gallery through Dec. 6

I'm strolling through D. Berman Gallery, drinking in the fabulously imaginative, chunkily painted creaturescapes of Robert Jessup. Presently I turn a corner and am faced with a string of large, vividly hued paintings resembling Polaroid moments caught in oils. These are the works of Katy O'Connor. Scanning the wall, my eyes fall on Katherine, and it's there that my fascination heightens.

O'Connor's paintings are scenic, but not in the sense of the word usually used to describe art. They're not beautiful tree-and-mountain scenes; they're theatrical scenes, usually involving two people. It's clear that her subjects are in the midst of an exchange, be it verbal, physical, or less clearly specified. And though her scenes do not generally appear emotionally heated, an undertow of vague tension laces each one.

Katherine stands out in O'Connor's works at D. Berman. It is the only piece in her portion of the show that features a single person instead of the artist's usual two, and the subject has her back to the viewer; she's crouched down, bending over her purse. But when asked at the gallery talk why Katherine has only one subject, the artist suggested that the purse is actually the second character in this scene. In Katherine, the woman's relationship to the purse is obscured (is she retrieving a piece of gum or a gun?), making the moment after this picture takes place hard to imagine. It is this sense of multiplying possibilities, of questions left unanswered, that makes O'Connor's Katherine so intriguing.

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Katherine, Katy O'Connor, D. Berman Gallery, Robert Jessup

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