"Sylvia Benitez: Recalling Memory / The Interior Lay" at Butridge Gallery
The paintings in this solo exhibition depict a place where landscapes are, more than anything, a Texas state of mind
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Dec. 20, 2019
It all happens in our heads anyway, the scientists tell us. Which means that even the most precise sort of photorealism must ultimately dead-end at the point where "I call it red and you call it red, but what are we really seeing?" is more a truth than it is a rhetorical banality.
Maybe sidestep all the representational rigmarole, then, and engage a gambit of expression that's just as valid and potentially even more suffused with beauty. Not by going into any fantastic realm of the imagination, per se – this isn't the cover of Dragon magazine circa 1982, this ain't no Moebius trip or Métal Hurlant hullabaloo – but by mining the rich veins of memory itself, by rendering what is perforce a subjective reality via what's been, after much immersion in the original, remembered.
"Be it the flight of wind, the roll of grass or the ripple of water, Sylvia Benitez captures what she recalls of the Texas landscape from memory," say the notes announcing the artist's current "Recalling Memory / The Interior Lay" exhibition. Why this works so well, why it rewards a visit to the Dougherty Arts Center's complex of classrooms and performance venue and clay studio and art-filled verticals, is because Benitez's memory is an extremely reliable instrument, one that allows her markmaking skills to replicate vistas perfectly in sync with, if not any specific chunk of the planet's surface, our own memories of such landscapes. Except that our own memory's playback mechanism might screen recollection a bit more, ah, stupidly than the artist's – and our arting skills, if we have any, might not achieve the effective subtlety of Benitez's evocative oil-based pigments.
These paintings are simultaneously a look inside the artist's mental interior – the "awe and sense of wonder and respect" she has "for the untamed and unprotected wilderness," as Benitez says on her website – and inside the DAC's Julia C. Butridge gallery, where right now the outsides of Texas are faithfully captured in work after work after work, the landscapes and big skies of the Lone Star State limned in concert with the grounds of memory and the graphic harmonies of a human heart.
“Sylvia Benitez: Recalling Memory / The Interior Lay”Butridge Gallery in the DAC, 1110 Barton Springs Rd., 512/974-4000, www.austintexas.gov/jcbgallery
Through Jan. 4